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“The second you leave the ground with your UAV you are a pilot in the eyes of Transport Canada, and you will be held to that standard.”
With that statement, Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre’s Brett Danks commanded the attention of a roomful of would-be commercial drone operators attending the International UAV Show, held Dec. 6 to 7 in Toronto, Ontario.
Danks, a flight instructor who teaches WWFC’s UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) pilot training course, delivered some useful tips to those who are considering flying a drone for business purposes.
“First, decide on your needs prior to choosing a drone,” he advised. “Start with the payload — what do you need on the UAV to accomplish your mission? Fixed-wing drones are good for agricultural surveying while helicopters are good for flying heavy cameras.”
He added that UAV pilots must thoroughly understand Canadian airspace classifications and the definition of an aerodrome, which includes not just airports but also hospital helipads, or any location where an aircraft may take off or land.
Under today’s regulations — which are now being revised by the regulator — drone operators must apply to Transport Canada to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) to operate their UAV.
“You need to know what [category of] SFOC to apply for — go for a complex SFOC if you want a blanket approval,” said Danks, who added that Transport Canada requires information about personnel who will be operating the UAV, along with insurance, mission and site survey, maintenance and emergency plan details.
“You need to know who to call and how to reach them if your drone isn’t responding and heads toward an airport, for example.”
Currently, Canadian commercial UAV operators may submit an application in one of three SFOC categories: compliant operator, restricted operator-complex or restricted operator-simplified.
Compliant operators are those who demonstrate that they have qualified personnel operating an approved UAV within visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) conditions. This category enjoys greater flexibility and a longer SFOC validity period, but eligibility and documentation requirements are stringent.