Canada Further Relaxes UAS Rules

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Canada will introduce a massive deregulation of commercial unmanned aerial systems later this year that will open up most of the country to for small UAS to fly without direct government oversight. In an announcement at the Unmanned Systems Canada conference in Montreal on Wednesday, Transport Canada Director General Martin Eley said his department will release exemptions to existing permit regulations for UAS weighing up to 4.5 pounds and those between 4.5 pounds and 52 pounds by the end of the year. “Aviation safety is our prime motivator,” Eley said. “I’m comfortable with this.”Canada already has among the most liberal UAS regulations in the world. Under the current regime, everyone who wants to use an unmanned system for business has to obtain a special flight operations certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. The agency has issued about 1,500 SFOCs in the last three years, almost 1,000 of those in 2013. Exemptions will allow permit-free line-of-sight use of the two classes of UAS in non-urban areas below 300 feet and at least five nautical miles away from airports. It’s expected the standing rules for the larger aircraft will be more onerous than for the smaller ones but they will generally reflect the rules now enforced through the SFOC process.

Anyone wanting to operate in built-up areas or outside of the general requirements will be required to obtain the proper permits. Eley said the relaxation of the rules will free up his staff’s time to devote attention to higher-risk applications while opening up the market for UAS in agriculture, mining, forestry and infrastructure uses in areas where they pose little or no risk to others. “We’re trying to get that balance,” he said. The rules will be issued in the form of “staff instructions” to all Transport Canada offices to ensure uniform application and enforcement across the country. It’s expected the exemptions will attract UAS operators and developers to Canada to take advantage of the huge expanses of rural Canada to test and evaluate their systems. There are now only six UAS test sites in the U.S. and commercial operation of UAS outside of those test sites, with the exception of some closed movie sets, is illegal. The new Canadian regs are a continuation of the country’s acceptance of UAS development. Last year, the country set aside a block of 700 square nautical miles of airspace in southern Alberta for testing beyond-visual-line-of-sight UAS. The Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, based at the tiny village of Foremost, Alberta, has the authority to close the airspace up to 18,000 feet by NOTAM to allow testing and is taking reservations.

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