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Canada's new drone laws make flying in urban areas virtually impossible

If you're a Canadian who owns a drone for purely recreational purposes, listen up because the Canadian government has just laid down the laws regarding where and when you can fly your drone.

And you're probably not going to like it.

As reported by CBC, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau announced the new rules along with the penalties for breaking them — a $3000 fine.

These rules cover all drones over 250 grams, and greatly restrict where you can fly, essentially ruling out any lawful drone flying in urban areas. You may not fly your drone:

  • Any higher than 90 meters (just under 300 feet).
  • Within 75 meters (250 feet) of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people.
  • More than half a kilometre away from you.
  • At night, in clouds or somewhere you can't see it.
  • Within nine kilometres of somewhere aircraft takeoff or land, or a forest fire.
  • Without your name, address and phone number marked on the drone itself.
  • Over forest fires, emergency response scenes or controlled airspace.

So let's say you live in a fairly busy city and wish to fly your drone around at the local park. Chances are, under these new rules, you won't be able to do so legally. Most of these rules previously existed as best practise guidelines (see: common sense) for flying drones in public spaces, but until now there was no penalty attached. Intervening police could only penalize someone flying their drone dangerously if they were in violation of the Criminal Code, likely criminal negligence.

But there was clearly a need for stricter rules to be put into place, as Transport Canada has seen a distinct increase in safety incidents involving drones over the past three years: 41 in 2014, 85 in 2015 and 148 in 2016.

By comparison, in the U.S. the FAA rules state that you may not fly your drone higher than 400 feet and must always keep your UAV within sight at all times. There are also rules about flying your drones any place that might be a danger to the public, so flying near other aircraft, near airports, over groups of people, over stadiums or sports events or near emergency response efforts such as fires are all banned. Also, you're not allowed to fly under the influence, which seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

Transport Canada has seen a distinct increase in safety incidents involving drones over the past three years: 41 in 2014, 85 in 2015 and 148 in 2016.

As Motherboard reported, fines for American drone pilots have typically ranged from $400 to $5,500, with the largest fine falling on SkyPan, a drone-photography company that illegally flew drones over New York City and Chicago and recieved a $200,000 fine from the FAA (opens in new tab).

Americans are also required to register their UAVs with the FAA if they're between .55 and 55 pounds, so if you've bought any of the more professional camera drones available out there, you'll definitely want to make sure they're registered so you don't find yourself in hot water.

So what do these new rules mean for Canadians looking to get into drone flying? Well for starters you'll want to affix a label of some sort to your drones with your name, address and phone number — which is just a good idea for anything with the capability to fly away off into the horizon on its own. And you'll of course need to be extremely wary of your surroundings wherever you are fly your drone.

If you're interested in drone racing, your best bet will be finding your local drone enthusiast club who may hold meet ups and other events in sanctioned spaces such as warehouses or gymnasiums. There's also FPV Canada, a small but growing community of drone pilots from across Canada.

If all else fails, you can always take some time to drive out into the abundant Canadian wilderness and practise your flying far away from any airports, buildings, vehicles and — perhaps most importantly — local authorities.

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.

37 Comments
  • Yes, please. Hear that, annoying neighbor?
  • That's me
  • Mmm... and here I was, thinking that the neighbor who did all the flying was the fat LADY permanently glued to her lawn chair with a remote in her hands. Maybe she's just racing RC Cars in her backyard...
  • Nope. That's me lmao. 🤰🤰🤰🤰
  • For once I'm impressed by legislation, although restrictions should be even leaner. 300 - 400 feet is too high for a start. I hope other regions get as tight or tighter, but it could take a proven fatal incident to push authorities. Buy a ranch or country estate if you live in urbanity (?) and hope no Cessna is vfr flying across you. I hate walking near a designated r/c aircraft area in the biggest London Royal park with one of these above me.
  • How many people die in car accidents every day?
  • Hardly an apt comparison. I do not think people need to fly their drones to get to work and the like.
  • Ok, how many people die of food poisoning each day? People need to eat right? You missed my entire point, fatal accidents happen all the time. I'm just curious why everyone is singling out drones. No one "needs" to listen to music / radio in the car. Changing the station / volume creates more distractions and deaths per year than drones. Why aren't you advocating for removing radios from cars?
  • People need to drive, no one needs to play drone warrior.
  • See my above reply to @morriea.
  • I'm actually happy to hear that. I find drones to be intrusive and ridiculous.
  • Hear, hear.
  • Have a shotgun handy if drones fly too near my farm.
  • And this is why I sold my DJI Phantom 3 last year. A guy can't even have fun anymore without someone complaining and legislatures legislating away freedom.
  • Man children like u need to be heavily regulated.
  • Are you really against self responsibility and freedom?
  • This. One day in the future we will (or future generations) will have to register r/c cars and get a licence to drive one If they have their way. Let people be responsible and enjoy.
  • Plain ridiculous, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to fly drones and this is all but an outright ban.
  • for "recreational" uses? what about those Canadians
    who need to fly drones for "medicinal" purposes?
  • manufacturers and stores will also be required
    to register serial numbers of all future drones,
    along with the name and address of the purchasers.
  • Perfect...should be 100% illegal in town. I have a drone iradicator here in the form of an automatic BB gun. any drone flys near my house...it gets dropped!
  • Why would you want that. You don't shoot the planes or helicopters that fly above your House.
  • Glad to see my country take a stand to safety and privacy with these things.
  • damn right...creepy ***** takeing videos of people in their gardens and houses with them. Like I said, one flys over me, they are getting video of me dropping their little peeping tom toy!
  • Wow just how interesting do you think you are?!
  • More over reaching government. Just what we need. Laws need to be set for drones but these are ridiculous.
  • People's Republic of Canada. 😅
  • Apart from the intrusion of ppl watching you from above in your own back yard, criminal types using them to case your house, terrorist types using them to bring down aircraft or even carry explosive stuff to venues with crowds...
    Otherwise they look like fun, send one to film a particularly difficult move on a rock climb and other fun footage..
    Common sense should prevail..
  • "Within 75 meters (250 feet) of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people." I wonder if the pilot counts as "people"?
  • Good ban them, only allow people to fly them over there own property or if a private landowner gives permission.
  • Nice. These things are bloody annoying. Sound like a huge hornet. Seriously, your in a park or something, just enjoying the day, and then one of these freaking drones shows up and everything is weeeerrrreeeeeeerrrrreeeee!
  • You drone fools need to be reined in. We're getting sick of the noise in the states too. I'd love to shoot one down.
  • I don't understand people trying to shoot down drones. Are these drones literally just above your neck that you hear them and think it's there to spy on you? I don't have one and don't plan to unless big brother let's go of the registration requirements.
  • Considering the same people who are flying these drones are the ones I encounter in daily traffic, this is a great idea. Drone flying should require a license, with 100% of the proceeds going to fund infrastructure improvements.
  • Really ? Do you have your name, address and phone number clearly visible on your car so that some nut job takes
    issue with you and shows up raging on your doorstep?
  • I'm an urban Canadian and these rules are reasonable. If you must fly a drone make friends with farmers, ranchers or cottagers. I'm sure the government will relax these rules when quieter drones are available and the delivery industry, led by Canada Post, demands the right to use them. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/drone-canada-post-1.3646850
  • Very revealing comments from people. IT begs the question.. what is the real issue with flying drones in the city anyway? Safety? Sure, people are dropping off in droves from all the drone deaths. It's sure to overpass car related deaths any second now.
    Privacy? while most of the population has no problem with thousands of CCTV cameras placed over every corner of a city (I do), they feel their private space is invaded by drones.
    Noise? Yes, With all the silence in the city, like from cars, sirens, car alarms, honking horns, blasting stereos,planes, jets,etc..I can see how a drone 20 meters up could crack ear drums.
    Most people who fly drones have common sense. the real problem is Canada, like the US has to many rules when it comes to controlling their population, always penalized by monetary fines. Think about it. How does a governing body actually better a community by taking their hard earned money? But the bottom line with why there is pressure to stop people flying drones in cities is because all the buildings are private, even many of the roads around those buildings. Though you may be able to walk on those streets, start filming and you will be confronted by private security telling you "It is forbidden to film here". and that is the main reason - private companies protecting their interests. Anyway, I live in Bali and enjoy the freedom to use "common sense" at will when flying my drone. There is nothing wrong with setting out some friendly guidelines for drone pilots as a reminder but creating rules punishable by law is just typical and stupid. I love my country but come on Canada .... F*$% OFF with all your Laws. Have some faith with your citizens.