Sunday, October 21, 2018

I recently purchased a 3DR Solo for aerial photography. I am not a professional photographer and the intent was that the drone would be purely recreational and non-commercial. Trying to find clarity on the rules and regulations has proven to be difficult, confusing, and contradictory to say the least. The media doesn’t help where discussions on local bylaws and rules lump “drones” into one big discussion. It’s no wonder people are just ignoring the rules and doing what they want.

Now commercial use I understand, especially where you may be flying in more populated areas or around building or structures. The rules in this regard seem to be clearly outlined, licensing seems straight forward, many companies offer liability insurance for commercial use so insurance shouldn’t be an issue. Anyone who ignores these rules deserves the fines and legal headaches that come with it. If you want to ignore the clearance rules and operate in a professional manner than follow the rules, get licenses, get insured, file a SFOC (special flight operations certificate) and do it the right way. You wouldn’t drive a vehicle without ensuring it’s maintained properly, you stayed on the road, had a license, and maintained your insurance. Do the same with your UAV.

The confusion starts when you’re not a commercial operator. What exactly are the rules for a recreational user, $1,000/year insurance is unrealistic, understanding exemptions, taking license courses, all too much for a recreational user.

I’ve contacted two insurance companies in Alberta that I’m associated with TD Meloche Monnex and AMA Insurance. Neither of them offers personal liability insurance for personal drone use. Why, I’m not sure. If you follow the rules the odds are extremely low that anything could happen, and if you did break the law the insurance would be voided. I think flying a kite may be more dangerous. I’ve contacted two insurance brokers in the hopes that they could help but so far no answers. I have heard that Intact may offer this as part of their homeowners insurance package but I haven’t had this confirmed yet. If anyone knows of companies covering individuals for personal use please post it in the comments.

Transport Canada Advisory Circular 600-002 defines some key points with the main point of clarity being what is a Model Aircraft and what is a UAV (recreational vs non-recreational use).

[testimonial author=”Transport Canada”]2.4 Definitions

The following definitions are used in this document:

  • Model Aircraft – means an aircraft with a total weight not exceeding 35 kg (77 lbs) that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes and that is not designed to carry persons or other living creatures.
  • Maximum Take-off Weight –means the weight of the aircraft at the time of the operation, including the weight of any payload (e.g. a camera) and fuel.
  • Unmanned Air Vehicle – means a power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is designed to fly without a human operator onboard


  1. Greater numbers of people in Canada are flying aircraft that, by design, are flown without a pilot on board and controlled through devices such as a remote control, tablet, smart phone, etc.
  2. For everyone’s safety, aviation is governed by strict rules similar to when operating a car or a boat.
  3. While UAV systems are legitimate airspace users, they must integrate into Canada’s national airspace in a safe manner. This will ensure the safety of other airspace users and people and property on the ground.
  4. To determine what type of aircraft you are operating , and if the guidance that applies to you, use the definitions above and the information below:

A model aircraft has no pilot onboard and is used by hobbyists for recreational purposes. If your aircraft and planned operation meets this category refer to section 4.0 for more details,


A UAV system is used for non-recreational and commercial purposes and is controlled remotely, either directly or through onboard computers. If your aircraft and operation meets this category, refer to section 5.0 for more information. [/testimonial]

So according to this Transport Canada definition of a UAV is non recreational and commercial. So would it be safe to assume that any references to a UAV are strictly non recreational and commercial applications. Recreational users are would follow the model aircraft rules and regulations? Where this get’s important is insurance. Commercial insurance is expensive, generally in the $1,000/year range. I’m finding it difficult to find liability coverage for recreational users. The Transport Canada rules specifically state the you must have insurance with you at all times. However, is this only applicable for UAV and model aircraft users are exempt from this requirement?

This is where it get’s confusing.

The model aircraft section makes no reference to insurance and the safety areas contradict the general drone information provided by Transport Canada

[testimonial author=”Model Aircraft”]4.0  MODEL AIRCRAFT

4.1.  General

  1. Model aircraft are excluded from the vast majority of Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) that are applied to other aircraft.  However, for a large model aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of over 35 kg (77 lbs), you require a special flight operations certificate (SFOC) to operate as described in section 5.0 below.
  2. If your aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of less than 35 kg (77 lbs) and is used for purposes other than recreation, it is not considered a model aircraft.  It is a UAV system and again is subject to section 5.0 and requires an SFOC.
  3. You should use your model aircraft for recreational purposes only (e.g. hobby and personal enjoyment). If you are using it for other purposes (i.e. flight training, inspection or academia purposes, etc), section 5.0 below is applicable as is the requirement for an SFOC.
  4. For model aircraft weighing less than 35 kg (77 lbs) and used for recreational purposes, the best practices in section 4.2 below provides guidance  for the safe operation of your model aircraft.
  5. The Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) represents 12,000 members and is the preeminent national body for model aviation in Canada. The MAAC supports and promotes recreational and competitive model flying, both locally and internationally and works with all levels of government.
  6. The regulations regarding model aircraft are clear:
    1. No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety (Canadian Aviation Regulations, Section 602.45).

4.2.  Safety Considerations for Model Aircraft

  • Before your Flight
    1. Inspect that your model aircraft is ready for flight.
      1. This means that the aircraft, control station components (hardware, software and firmware) and control links are in a fit for flight condition.
    2. Seek permission from the property owner on which you intend to operate your model aircraft
    3. Know the classification of the airspace you want to fly in. It would be inappropriate and unsafe for you to operate in airspace with heavy aircraft traffic, such as around airports.   
    4. Confirm that there is no radio frequency interference (from a nearby radar site for example) that will interfere with the control of your aircraft.
    5. Have an emergency plan just in case.
      1. This means know the people and equipment available that could help you respond to an incident, accident, medical emergency, you have a fly-away or if your model aircraft becomes uncontrollable.
  • During your Flight
    1. Operate the aircraft safely.
    2. Always be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes. This means that you should not use an on-board camera, first person view device or other similar devices.
    3. Always give way to manned aircraft (e.g. hot air balloons, gliders, ultra-light aeroplanes including powered parachutes, aeroplanes and helicopters).  
    4. Fly only during daylight and in good weather (e.g. not in clouds or fog).
    5. Avoid restricted airspace (e.g. forest fire areas, prisons  or military airspace)
    6. Remain at least 9 km (5 nautical miles) from any aerodromes and heliports.
    7. Maintain below a safe altitude (300 feet (90 metres)) and a safe horizontal distance (minimum 100 feet (30 metres)) from people, structures or buildings.
    8. Do not fly in populated areas or overfly assemblies of people (e.g. sporting events, concerts, etc). 
    9. Do not fly where or when you could interfere with any first responders (fire department, police, etc) as they conduct their duties.
    10. Respect the privacy of others.
    11. Do not operate with any dangerous goods or lasers on the aircraft.

4.3.  Penalties for Model Aircraft

  1. Violations of the model aircraft regulation are handled by the courts or judicial action. Endangering the safety of aircraft is a serious offence under the Aeronautics Act and is punishable by a fine.
  2. The Criminal Code of Canada describes several offences involving the dangerous operation of aircraft and endangering the safety of other aircraft. Committing such offences is punishable by monetary penalties and/or jail time including imprisonment for life.
  3. Other penalties may apply against other regulations outlined in section 2.0.[/testimonial]

So this circular defines one set of rules. However Circular 600-004 starts to define things further and in some ways contradicts the above. Originally I was under the impression that as a recreational user of a drone less the 2kg I would follow EXEMPTION FROM SECTIONS 602.41 AND 603.66 OF THE CANADIAN AVIATION REGULATIONS Now this exemption clearly states that it does NOT apply to model aircraft. We’ve determined from the above circular that Model Aircraft is the name for recreational users.


This exemption appliess to any person conducting UAV system operations within Canadian Domestic Airspace utilizing UAVs with a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 2 kilograms within visual line-of-sight.

This exemption does not apply to:

  1. Operations of model aircraft;
  2. Operations of an Autonomous UAV; or
  3. Operations by a foreign UAV operator.

I would therefore assume that as a recreational users none of the conditions outlined in EXEMPTION FROM SECTIONS 602.41 AND 603.66 OF THE CANADIAN AVIATION REGULATIONS would be applicable including insurance??

Drone Safety Information click on the link. Assuming insurance isn’t required the only new wrinkle is the clearance from people. Where as 30 meters was the original dimension, the current information (see below) requires 150m (5x) the original number.



So this is what I think this all means.

Recreational non commercial use is governed by the rules and regulations for model aircraft, which basically imposes no insurance requirements, no licensing, and no SFOC requirements if you fly within the restrictions outlined. Don’t fly around fireworks, airports and large crowds and respect the clearance dimensions of 150m and 30 meter flying height. This also means that your recreational drone is NOT a UAV so the rules and exemptions do not apply. Basically use common sense, and follow the guidelines in the graphic above. I have no idea if this is correct or not and I guess that’s the problem. No clear definition for recreational users.

If someone finds different information please share.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>