Background – UAV site selection tool

Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR 602.41) stipulate that any operation of an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for non-recreational purposes requires a valid Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) issued by Transport Canada. In submitting an application for an SFOC, the applicant must describe the area of operations, type and purpose of operations, UAV model and its systems, site security plan, pilot/crew proficiency, standard operating procedures and emergency procedures. Guidance regarding the expected contents of the application is contained in Transport Canada's Staff Instruction 623-001(opens in a new window).

On December 22, 2016 Transport Canada introduced changes to two exemptions(opens in a new window) that relaxed the requirement for SFOCs for operations involving very small (under 1 kg) and small (under 25 kg) UAVs. Under the new exemptions operators that meet strict safety conditions, including height/distance restrictions, minimum distances from airports, and visual line of sight operation are permitted to operate without an approved SFOC. The detailed guidance material for operating under an exemption is provided in Transport Canada's Advisory Circular (AC) No. 600-004(opens in a new window).

There are 43 conditions required for operation under an exemption with a UAV weighing 1 kg and under, and 61 conditions required for operation under an exemption with a UAV weighing 25 kg and under. The specific conditions can be found in the Appendix to AC 600-004(opens in a new window). This web tool has been developed to assist operators in complying with the following requirements:

  1. The pilot operating under this exemption shall operate a UAV at or below 300 feet above ground level (AGL).
  2. The pilot conducting operations under this exemption shall only operate a UAV in Class G airspace.
  3. The pilot operating under this exemption shall only operate a UAV at least five (5) nautical miles away from the centre of any aerodrome listed in the Canada Flight Supplement, or the Water Aerodrome Supplement, and at least three (3) nautical miles from any heliport listed in the Canada Flight Supplement, or any other aerodrome.
  4. The pilot of a 1 kg or less UAV operating under this exemption shall not operate the UAV further than one-quarter nautical mile from the pilot’s location, and not over a built-up area.
  5. The pilot of a 25 kg or less UAV operating under this exemption shall not operate the UAV further than one-half nautical mile from the pilot’s location, and not closer than three (3) nautical miles from a built-up area.

To operate under an exemption with a UAV weighing:

This web tool:

  • Displays a five (5) nautical mile radius red-colored ring around aerodromes found in the Canada Flight Supplement or Water Aerodrome Supplement, and a three (3) nautical mile radius red-coloured ring around heliports found in the Canada Flight Supplement;
  • Displays a 3 nautical mile yellow-coloured ring around aerodromes or heliports that are found in sources other than the Canada Flight Supplement or Water Aerodrome Supplement;
  • Highlights any known airspace below 300 feet AGL that is not Class-G with a red-filled polygon with a yellow boundary line;
  • Displays a green-colored ring around the cursor position when the user clicks a location on the map, which along with the use of satellite imagery may assist in determining proximity to built-up areas; and
  • Displays a red ring around the cursor position when the user clicks on the map which identifies the horizontal distance limit for the selected UAV weight category.