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  • Writer's pictureDaniel McCue

Answering your questions about owning and operating a drone in Canada

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Did you know that, as of February 2023, there are more than 74,000 registered drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in Canada? That’s twice as many as traditional aircraft, according to Transport Canada.


And, there are more than 88,000 registered drone pilots. That’s more than the population of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories – combined!


Whether you use your drone for business or pleasure, Transport Canada has specific regulations for drones and their pilots. We’ve read through their regulations and summarised what you may need to know to operate your drone safely and legally. However, we encourage you to contact Transport Canada with any specific questions you may have.


Drone registration in Canada

Do I need to register my drone?

You probably need to register your drone. It just depends on the weight of the craft.


How do I register my drone?

Use Transport Canada’s Drone Management Portal to register your drone. You can use your GCKey or your online banking partner to sign-in to the portal.


What are the fees for registering a drone?

The drone registration fee is $5.


How do I show proof that I’ve registered my drone?

Transport Canada will give your drone a unique registration number. Mark your drone with that number using permanent marker, engraving, or a permanent label. The registration number must be clearly visible on your drone.


What are the penalties for flying an unregistered drone in Canada?

If a recreational drone pilot flies an unregistered drone, Transport Canada may fine them $1,000. The fines quintuple for a commercial drone pilot: a $5,000 fine for flying an unregistered drone.


Our recommendation? If your drone weighs 250g to 25kg, fill out the paperwork and pay the $5 registration fee to register it.


Drone pilot licencing in Canada

Do I need a drone pilot licence?

If your drone weighs 250g to 25kg, you will need a drone pilot licence, which Transport Canada calls a Pilot Certificate.


Transport Canada offers two types of Pilot Certificates: Basic Operations and Advanced Operations.

Which drone pilot certificate do I need?

Basic operators meet five conditions:

  • Your drone flies in uncontrolled airspace.

  • You fly your drone more than 30m from people.

  • You never fly your drone over people.

  • You fly your drone at least 3 nautical miles from a certified airport or military aerodrome.

  • You fly your drone at least 1 nautical mile from a certified heliport.

If you meet all five conditions, you can apply for the Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations. Otherwise, you’ll need a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations.


How do I obtain a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations?

To obtain a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations, you must pass the Small Basic Exam, a 35-question, multiple-choice, online exam administered through Transport Canada’s Drone Management Portal. You have 90 minutes to complete the exam. To pass, you must score 65 percent or higher; you’ll find out your results after you finish your exam.


Tip: Before you take the Small Basic Exam, review the Knowledge Requirements for Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems. Also, consider attending a drone flight school, which can provide you with training about airspace classifications, notice to airmen (NOTAM) reporting services, aeronautical charts, the Canada Flight Supplement, and relevant sections of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.


What are the fees for a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations?

It costs $10 to take the Small Basic Exam, required for Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations. If you need to retake the exam, you can retake the exam as many times as needed. You must wait at least 24 hours between exams; each exam costs $10.


What is a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations?

Transport Canada defines advanced operations as when flying a drone meets one or more of the following:

  • In a controlled airspace.

  • Over bystanders.

  • Within 30m of bystanders.

  • Less than 3 nautical miles from a certified airport or military aerodrome.

  • Less than 1 nautical mile from a certified heliport.


How do I obtain a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations?

To obtain a Pilot Certificate – Advance Operations, you need to pass both the Small Advanced Exam administered by Transport Canada and a flight review administered by a drone flight school.

The Small Advanced Exam is a 50-question, multiple-choice, online exam administered through Transport Canada’s Drone Management Portal. You have 60 minutes to complete the exam. To pass, you must score 80 percent or higher; you’ll find out your results after you finish your exam.


Tip: Before you take the Small Advanced Exam, review Appendix A of the knowledge requirements for small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.


The purpose of the flight review is to assess your ability to operate your drone safely. As of November 2023, there are 179 drone flight schools in Canada and many of them serve the entire country. When you attend your flight review, be sure to bring the following:

  • A copy of the results of your successful Small Advanced Exam;

  • Valid, government-issued identification; and

  • The Certificate of Registration for the drone you’ll use in your flight review.

Your flight reviewer will submit your results within 24 hours; you’ll receive an email confirmation with a link to view them.


What are the fees for a Pilot Certificate – Advance Operations?

You will have up to three fees for a Pilot Certificate – Advance Operations:

  1. A $25 fee.

  2. $10 to take the required Small Advanced Exam. If you need to retake the exam, you can retake the exam as many times as needed. You must wait at least 24 hours between exams; each exam costs $10.

  3. A fee by your flight reviewer. Not all flight reviewers charge; in addition rates may vary between reviews. Like the Small Advanced Exam, you may retake the flight review and may need to pay a fee each time. If you need to retake a flight review, you may schedule another review for the next day.


How do I renew a drone Pilot Certificate?

Your drone Pilot Certificate does not expire. However, Transport Canada expects you to have completed one of the following in the past 24 months before you fly your drone:

  1. Pass either the Small Basic Exam or the Small Advanced Exam;

  2. Successfully pass a flight review; or

  3. Complete an endorsed training activity, such as a safety seminar, recurrent training, or a self-paced study program.


Do I need to obtain a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations if I already have a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations?

No. Your Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations will also cover basic operations. You do not need to obtain an additional pilot certificate.


Insure your drone, too

Now that you have your drone registered and you, the pilot, licenced, let the aviation insurance experts at Air1 Insurance help you protect yourself and your craft. Talk to one of our knowledgeable, experienced staff and get a quote today. Please note, coverage cannot be bound or changed via a contact form.


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