Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax is an eastern Canadian port and business center rich in maritime culture and history. You can see tranquil lakes, history museums, and maritime museums here, among other things.
If you want to explore the sights of Halifax with your drone, you’ll naturally wonder – can you?
You can’t fly a drone in most of Halifax, as the Canadian government has ruled the municipality a no-fly zone. Halifax has many heliports and Class D controlled airspace, especially around the Shearwater Control Zone.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss further what makes Halifax a no-fly zone, whether any exceptions exist, and other restricted areas in Canada to keep in mind.
If you have a Canadian trip coming up for business or pleasure, you won’t want to miss it!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Can you fly a drone in Halifax?
Halifax, or the Halifax Regional Municipality, may offer many appealing sights to drone pilots, but you’ll have to make other plans than flying here.
According to the Government of Canada website, the municipality includes too many heliports, so the government ruled it a no-fly zone.
This map from the Canadian government makes it clear which areas you can use your drone and which you can’t, as those are the shaded areas in red.
No-fly zones extend 1.6 kilometers or 0.99 miles around each heliport.
We also have to talk about the Shearwater Control Zone, a military airport in Halifax. Ruled Class D controlled airspace, you shouldn’t plan to use your drone here either.
The Shearwater Control Zone extends 9.3 kilometers or 5.78 miles and includes portions of Halifax Harbour, Long Lake, Lawrencetown, and the Montague Gold Mines.
If any of those spots were on your must-see list, remove them if you’ll carry your drone with you.
Are there any exceptions to Halifax’s drone ban?
The Canadian government does permit drone pilots to fly in Halifax, including the Shearwater Control Zone, in limited circumstances.
Let’s start with the Shearwater Control Zone. The Canadian government clearly states that you should only plan for advanced operations here, no basic operations.
You would need a Special Flight Operators Certificate if using your drone within 5.6 kilometers or 3.48 miles of the zone.
You’d also have to go through 12 Wing Operations for approval. You can email them at 12WOpsCentre@forces.gc.ca or contact them by phone at 902-720-1303.
Can you fly a drone outside of Halifax?
Okay, so you can’t fly a drone in the Halifax Regional Municipality in most circumstances, but what if you venture outside of it?
Well, just take a look at the map!
You wouldn’t want to fly west, as that’s nothing but water. You’ll reach Long Lake Provincial Park if you go east of Halifax. Canada outlaws drone pilots from accessing provincial parks, so you’d once again be out of luck.
If you head northward toward Burnside, keep in mind there’s a stretch of a no-fly zone in that region as well.
Venturing northwest from Halifax brings you to a series of zones the Canadian government has marked in yellow. Yellow zones are warning zones, so your drone probably shouldn’t fly there.
These areas include parts of East Chezzetcook and Lawrencetown and all of West Chezzetcook, West Porters Lake, Seaforth, and East Lawrencetown.
If you own a DJI drone, anticipate that your drone will warn you when entering these zones. However, the drone will stop short of grounding since you can fly in a warning zone.
Drones from other manufacturers might not give you the same warning, but you don’t need it, per se.
Where else in Canada can’t you fly a drone?
Halifax is just the tip of the iceberg, really. When venturing through Canada with your drone in tow, always avoid the following off-limits places.
Okay, so you can use your drone over buildings if you know the building’s owner or occupants and have their permission. In every other case, you can’t do it, so don’t plan to.
Most of the Canadian Aviation Regulations prohibit drone use underground save for Part IX. Even still, Transport Canada–the governing aeronautics agency in the country–prefers that you don’t fly underground.
Flying a drone indoors poses a lot of risks of property damage and possible injuries to other people. Again, with the proper permission, you can fly indoors, but not in any other circumstances.
During advertised events
When a sporting event, outdoor concert, or other advertised event rolls into town–in Halifax or other parts of Canada–drone pilots should not expect to fly.
You would need a Special Flight Operations Certificate, and the certificate would have to permit drone use during advertised events specifically.
According to the Transport Canada website, obtaining a Special Flight Operations Certificate requires you to take an exam and then fill out an Application for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.
On emergency sites
During any emergency operations like traffic accidents or incidents where first responders and/or police are actively responding, drones can only go as far as the security perimeter.
Emergency sites also include the sites of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and forest fires.
You’re prohibited access from emergency sites to prevent drones from interrupting the critical work performed by first responders and emergency operators.
Throughout Canada, drones can only launch or land in a national park if a park superintendent allows it.
You’d have to contact Parks Canada to request permission, and even then, only expect to receive that permission in limited circumstances.
Department of National Defense aerodromes
You cannot get closer than 5.6 kilometers or 3.48 miles to aerodromes managed by the Department of National Defense.
You’d need an SFOC – RPAS permit, which would first require you to contact the Department of National Defense authorities.
Heliports and airports beyond controlled airspace
You can use your drone in uncontrolled airspace; that’s no surprise. Once you fly into controlled airspace, the rules change.
If you use your drone within three nautical miles of any certified airport in Canada or one nautical mile of a certified heliport, you need a drone pilot certificate that permits Advanced Operations.
Further, you must follow the drone permission procedures Transport Canada includes in the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual.
Other aerodromes, heliports, and airports
Without following the Transport Canada protocols mentioned in the paragraph above, you’re prohibited from flying any closer than one nautical mile or 1.9 kilometers from a heliport with a Certified or “Cert” listing.
You cannot fly closer than three nautical miles or 5.6 kilometers from an airport with a Certified or “Cert” listing either.
Over forest fires
Transport Canada prohibits drone pilots from flying within five nautical miles of any forest fire. The rule also applies if NOTAM issues Forest Fire Aircraft Operating Restrictions.
In Class F airspace
Class F Special Use Restricted Airspace, as the name implies, is designed to keep drone pilots out. Fly in uncontrolled airspace instead.
How do you know which areas of Halifax are restricted vs. unrestricted airspace?
Studying the map above is a great starting point if you want to avoid flying in restricted airspace during your Canadian vacation or business trip.
However, some restricted or warning airspaces can change, and you won’t want to get caught unawares.
The Canadian government created an interactive drone tool that includes a map of Canada. Across the map, you can explore red no-fly zones and yellow warning zones to ascertain where you can fly before venturing out.
You can also use a drone app from NAV Canada, which you can download for free on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
You probably have your preferred drone apps, and you should be fine to use those as well. Just make sure the apps work in countries outside of the United States.
You can also listen to your drone, especially if you have a high-end UAV from a brand like DJI.
Although it’s annoying when DJI restricts you from flying in uncontrolled airspace (which can happen, unfortunately), that the manufacturer will warn you about flying in certain areas and even stop your drone from flying is all for your safety.
Once you enter a no-fly one, you could face extreme consequences, so it’s not worth it!
Halifax may be a Canadian jewel, but it’s one you’ll have to plan to visit without your drone. The Halifax Regional Municipality is a designated no-fly zone where only pilots with the correct permissions can enter.
The areas around Halifax include further no-fly zones, prohibited areas, and warning zones, so you’re better off planning your flight in a different part of Canada!
1. Government of Canada (link)
2. Get permission for special drone operations (link)
3. Drone site selection tool (link)
4. NAV CANADA Drone Flight Planning (link)