25 July 2018

In order to respond to the popularity of unmanned air vehicles, also known as “drones”, the federal government has put in place temporary rules to regulate their use. The entry into force of a permanent regulation is planned for 2018. However, until the proposed regulation is adopted, the current rules must be respected. Different rules apply depending on the drone’s type of use. As a matter of fact, a recreational use is not regulated the same way as a use for work or research.

Golf superintendents may be tempted to use a drone to control and monitor different elements of the course for work purposes. Therefore, it is this aspect that will be addressed.


Use for work

Any use of a drone other than recreational is subject to the Canadian Aviation Regulations, the Criminal Code, and applicable provincial and municipal legislation, including the right to privacy. To fly a drone for work purposes requires permission from Transport Canada. However, depending on the type of device and its weight, you may be exempted from having to obtain this permission if you meet certain requirements.



You may be exempted from obtaining a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) if the device you wish to fly weighs 25 kg or less and if you meet the requirements of the weight category of the device. You must make sure that you meet the criteria of the Exemption from the application of 602.41 and 603.66 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations for the weight category of the device, either 1 kg or less, or more than 1 kg to 25 kg. Each category of exemption includes specific training requirements for the pilot of the drone and rules to follow during its use.

For the moment, a pilot permit is not necessary, however it will become mandatory with the entry into force of the new regulation in 2018. Every drone pilot must nevertheless understand airspace classification and structure, know meteorological and International Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) reporting services, be able to interpret aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS), and know the applicable content of the Canadian Aviation Regulations. The pilot operating a drone of more than 1 kg to 25 kg is required to have successfully completed a pilot training program that covers these elements. All pilots must also have received a practical training on the safe use of their drone, usually offered by manufacturers.

In order to benefit from the exemption, you must respect the applicable rules, namely:

  • Have a liability insurance coverage of $100,000$;
  • Operate the drone only during daylight hours;
  • Keep the drone within visual line-of-sight at all time;
  • Operate the drone within a radius of 500 m or 900 m, depending on the category of the drone;
  • Operate the drone within an altitude of 90 m;
  • Operate no more than one drone at a time;
  • Stay at a distance of controlled airspaces and forest fires;
  • Stay at least 9 km away of listed aerodromes or water aerodromes;
  • Never operate a drone over or within a built up area or stay 5.5 km away of these areas, depending on the category of the drone;
  • Operate a drone at a lateral distance of at least 100 feet (or at least 500 feet, depending of the category of the drone) of general public, spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation;

If you are able to meet all of these requirements, you must then inform Transport Canada that you qualify for the exemption through the Exemption notification form.

If you are unable to meet all the requirements set out in the exemptions, you need a SFOC to fly a drone.


Permission required

Permission is required to fly a device over 25 kg. You must then send a request to the Civil Aviation office of the region where you will fly the device in order to obtain a SFOC. You must complete the Application for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for the Operation of a Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) System in Canadian Airspace and provide the required documents. The application must contain all mandatory information, including your contact information, a description of how the device will be used (where, when, how), and a detailed plan of how you intend to manage security risks.


No Drone Zones and Fines

Remember that no matter what type of device, its use or its weight, you cannot fly a drone around airports and aerodromes, in populated or busy areas, in national parks, or beyond border crossings. Permission may however be granted by Transport Canada for specific purposes. A SFOC will then be needed.

Although the rules regarding the use of drones apply across Canada, provinces and municipalities may have extended their no drone zones to other areas. It is therefore necessary to be well informed in order to use the device legally.

Contravening to the existing legislation can not only expose you to fines of up to $ 25,000, but also to jail time.


Guidance and prevention

The golf club that decides to use drones must notify people in a clear and noticeable terms. For greater caution, it might even be interesting to have all employees, members, visitors, etc., sign a formal acknowledgment that they are aware of the use of drones on the golf’s property, that they accept the risks associated with this use, and that they agree they might be filmed or photographed.

The use of a drone on a golf course will not be challenge-free. One must make sure not to affect the golfers nor disturb the neighbors. Therefore, it would be important to inform the users and establish an internal policy to set the boundaries of the use of drones, especially by limiting periods of the day and/or specific areas where they could be used, but also by clearly defining the reasons and objectives of their use.



The new regulation will come into effect in 2018. Once this is done, we will be able to update the information contained in this article and notify you of the relevant changes.


Andrée-Anne McInnes
Cain Lamarre