New restrictions announced for recreational drone users in Canada


Anyone who’s ever used a drone to capture a late-evening skate or autumn’s changing leaves from a bird’s-eye-view will likely be disappointed by the new restrictions placed on recreational drone users.

The new rules were announced by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau on Thursday. Effective immediately, recreational drone users can be fined up to $3,000 if drones weighing more than 250 grams (about half a pound) are caught in one of the following scenarios:

  • Flying higher than 90 metres, within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people.
  • More than 500 metres away from the user.
  • At night, in clouds, or in some other conditions where the drone is not clearly visible.
  • Within nine kilometres of somewhere an aircraft may take off or land.
  • Overtop any forest fire, emergency response scene, or controlled airspace.
  • Without your name, address, and phone number market on the drone.

Prior to these new regulations, similar guidelines were in place, but there were no penalties for breaking them.

The announcement was made at downtown Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, where Garneau said that an entire overhaul of Canada’s regulations for unmanned aircrafts will be coming in June, but that something needed to be done on an interim basis.

Garneau went on to cite Transport Canada statistics, which show a large increase in the reported number of safety incidents involving drones. According to reports, there were just 41 incidents in 2014, but that number jumped to 148 in 2016.

Although a number of commentators on Twitter pointed out that the new regulations effectively ban urban users, especially in cities like Victoria where floatplanes are widely used, Garneau told reporters that safety is the number one priority.

“When it comes to safety, I don’t think anything is overkill,” he said, and officials from the Ottawa International Airport Authority agreed.

“As drones grow in popularity, we need to work closely together to ensure that our skies remain safe for aviation activity while keeping communities safe from collateral harm,” Mark Laroche, the president and CEO of the airport authority, told CBC News.

Garneau told reporters that in addition to pilot reports of seeing drones just off the plane’s wing as they’re coming into airports, there have also been incidents where the unmanned aircrafts land near people and on cars, which can pose a major hazard.

“In they’re over 250 grams they can cause serious damage, including killing people.”