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Canada’s national association representing the unmanned systems sector welcomes the federal government’s newly announced regulations governing remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly known as drones.
The new rules were announced on Jan. 9 in Montreal by federal transport minister Marc Garneau and outline key measures which provide regulatory certainty for best safety practices, while also encouraging growth and innovation in this fast-paced sector. Today’s announcement concludes the first of four planned regulatory development phases, and formalizes the rules for operating small drones (<25 kilograms) in visual line of sight.
“We have co-chaired the RPAS regulatory working group with Transport Canada since its inception in 2010,” said Mark Aruja, chairman of Unmanned Systems Canada/Systémes Télécommandés Canada. “We have leveraged over a decade of experience and technology development to arrive at these rules, which strike an appropriate balance between assuring safety while enabling economic growth.”
Key changes announced will require that all RPAS pilots, whether flying for commercial or recreational purposes, pass a comprehensive Transport Canada online knowledge test. In addition, commercial pilots must demonstrate piloting skills by flying a drone for an examiner. Additional requirements are levied on the design of systems being used for commercial use, increasingly stringent depending on how close the intended operations are to people or airports.
“This new licensing system will produce better pilots across the country,” said Aruja. “It will also effectively eliminate the somewhat cumbersome process that was previously in place. Detailed paperwork and special permissions will now only be required under specific circumstances, which will allow professional operators to carry out their jobs with less bureaucracy.”
The new RPAS rules have been eagerly awaited by Canada’s growing drone industry. “We now need,” said Aruja, “to move firmly ahead with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights. These allow commercial drone operators to carry out many types of long-range missions, such as surveying our vast forests, mining properties, agricultural lands, hydro lines and pipelines where there are tremendous economic opportunities. Transport Canada can now free the necessary resources to move forward expeditiously to support industry’s needs.”
The commercial RPAS industry in Canada has doubled in size every two years over the past decade. Over 1,000 companies now design, manufacture or operate drones in an ever increasing variety of scenarios. Last year, over 3,000 commercial drone pilots were trained in Canada. Regulatory certainty provides a strong foundation for business growth and promotes investment. Today’s announcement is a positive step in that direction.