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Most drone operators will need certification, starting this weekend

Last Updated May 31, 2019 at 11:24 pm PDT


New certification for drone operators is two-tiered, depending on where the drone will be used

People holding basic licences can only use drones in unpopulated areas

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You can say goodbye to the days you can pick up a drone online and fly it with abandon in Canada.

Starting Saturday, pretty well anyone flying an unmanned aircraft must be certified.

Up until now, a distinction was made between people who flew them for recreational purposes and professionals. Pilots who used the unmanned devices for commercial use went through a regulation process, whereas people using them for fun were only required to be familiar with basic rules.

Now, everyone who operates a drone between 250 grams and 25 kilos will need to be licenced.

“It’s quite common for people to buy a drone at Amazon or Best Buy and think they can fly them wherever they want. That’s not the case. They need some education and be responsible for how they put things in the air,” says Alec Wilson with the Coastal Drone Company, who believes the rules are well-crafted.

People who fly drones in rural or wilderness areas and away from bystanders will need a basic certificate, which can be acquired online.

The process is a bit more onerous for people flying drones in controlled airspace, or near people.

“For the advanced category, people have to pass an online exam through Transport Canada and pass an in-person flight-review, which is the same as a flight test,” Wilson explains.

Advanced certificates are needed for anyone wanting to launch in cities such as Vancouver.

“All of Vancouver is in controlled airspace. There’s a two-block stretch by Boundary Road near the PNE where’s it’s not controlled airspace,” notes Paul Bennett of Aerobotika which trains pilots primarily for the workplace.

The popularity of drones for work use has taken off in the last few years. Bennett says his company has trained 2,600 drone-pilots in the last six years. Drones are used for surveying, film-making, news gathering, environmental inspections and even bylaw enforcement.

The new rules also require drones to be registered with Transport Canada.

Fines range from $1,000 for individuals flying without a licence to $15,000 for companies putting aircraft or people at risk.