Over the past several months, we’ve talked to many different drone operators throughout Canada. There is large variance in pricing, equipment, expertise and portfolios. And the perceptions about the current rules regarding SFOCs ranges just as much. However, there is one misinterpretation that seems to be more prevalent than others, usually among operators who are less experienced.
The confusion stems from the Exemptions that were released by Transport Canada at the end of November 2014. They were heralded as making it easier for many drone operators to operate commercially. However, the reality is not so simple.
The infographic relating to the exemptions is published here. The restrictions for operating under each exemption are clearly laid out on page 2, and generally, they are straightforward.
However, if you look carefully at the bottom of the second page, you’ll notice the following phrase:
“DO NOT: Fly closer than 9km from forest fires, airports, heliports, aerodromes, or built-up areas.”
Now, most new operators might assume “built-up areas” means the downtown areas of large cities, or even cities in general. The reality, however, is quite different.
The details of the exemption requirements can be found in the Advisory Circular here. If you look to section 4.2 (26) (which is on page 10), Transport Canada says the following about “built-up areas”:
“Built-up areas are considered areas with groups of buildings or dwellings including anything from small hamlets to major cities. Anything larger than a farmstead should be considered a built up area.”
With this, it becomes clear why the exemptions probably don’t apply to you; unless you’re operating in a very, very rural or isolated area, you will almost never be 9km from any grouping of homes larger than a farmstead. This is the main reason why many less experienced operators believe they are operating under an exemption, when in reality, they should be filing for SFOCs.
Always make sure to read the full regulations, and ask an experienced operator (or us!) if you have any questions.