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Can You Fly a Drone in Ottawa?

As Canada’s capital, Ottawa brings in big crowds. It’s the home to the National Gallery of Canada, Parliament Hill, and the Ottawa River.

You’re brimming with excitement at the thought of seeing these sights from a new aerial view with your drone. Can you fly a drone in Ottawa?

You can fly a drone in Ottawa, but you must follow Transport Canada’s drone flight rules. You’re required to survey the area before flying and obtain any necessary NOTAMs. You must also stay in controlled airspace.

This guide to flying a drone in Ottawa will tell you everything you need to know. If this will be your first time visiting, you can’t miss the information we have ahead!

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Can you fly a drone in Ottawa?

Transport Canada, which establishes the rules on aeronautics in Canada, permits drone pilots to fly in Ottawa.

Exceptions exist, of course.

For example, Ottawa has a strong political presence, with the Office of the Prime Minister, the country’s viceroy, the Supreme Court, and the Parliament of Canada all located here.

You cannot use your drone around any federal government building or sensitive infrastructure.

You’re also prohibited from operating a drone near an airport, and Ottawa has a bunch. Here’s the full list for your perusal:

  • Ottawa International Airport
  • Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport
  • Rockcliffe Airport
  • Carp Airport (aka Ottawa/Carp Airport)
  • Dwyer Hill Airport Ottawa
  • Rideau Valley Air Park (an aerodrome)
  • Hope Field (aka Ottawa/Manotick Aerodrome)

The Arnprior Airport and Constance Lake Waterdrome also aren’t too terribly far from Ottawa.

In Canada, you can only fly three nautical miles from an airport or aerodrome, not five nautical miles like in the United States. You will have to plan your drone flights accordingly.

Further, Transport Canada requires pilots to survey the area before they fly a drone. Do this for every flight you take in the country.

If you must send a Notice to Airmen or NOTAM through the NAV CANADA NOTAMs portal, do that before you launch. 

Use a drone map to ensure you’re not in a no-fly zone. Those are indicated in red on your map. If you own a DJI drone, it won’t operate in restricted airspace. However, other drones will. 

You can use your drone in a yellow warning zone, but you should do so cautiously. 

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Canadian drone laws to learn for your trip to Ottawa

Using your drone in a new part of the world sure is exciting, but it comes with a whole new set of drone laws to obey.

Here are some pertinent laws from Transport Canada.

Do not use your drone over buildings, underground, or indoors

According to the Canadian Aviation Regulations, Part IX, pilots cannot operate a drone over or near buildings, underground, or indoors unless you have the building owner or building occupant’s permission.

Do not fly over advertised events

In Canada, an advertised event includes sporting events, outdoor concerts, and similar gatherings.

You must have a Special Flight Operations Certificate to use your drone for an advertised event. Otherwise, fly elsewhere.

Avoid emergency sites

You can’t enter a security perimeter during a first responder emergency involving the fire department, police, or other emergency responders. 

You also cannot enter an earthquake, flood, or forest fire zone with your drone, as you’re not supposed to disrupt the life-saving duties of emergency personnel.

Do not use your drone in national parks

Canada bans the use of drones in national parks in almost all instances. Park superintendents sometimes permit drones, but you’d have to reach out to Parks Canada and request permission to take off.

Without permission, it’s illegal to fly in a national park. 

Do not fly near the Department of National Defense aerodrome

You must stay within three nautical miles of the Department of National Defense aerodrome just as you would any aerodrome in Canada.

If you’re using your drone any closer to the aerodrome, you need an SFOC-RPAS and the proper authorization.

Limit your distance from heliports and airports

The Canada Flight Supplement determines your distance when flying near an airport in Ottawa and greater Canada.

If a heliport is classified as Certified (Cert for short), you can only fly one nautical mile or 1.9 kilometers from it.

For airports classified as Certified, you can fly within three nautical miles or 5.6 kilometers, as mentioned.

Register and license your drone

If your drone weighs under 250 grams, you must follow Transport Canada rules when operating it but aren’t required to obtain a license or register the drone to use it.

Should your drone surpass the 250-gram weight threshold, you must have a valid drone certificate and a registered drone.

You can select between two types of drone licenses in Canada, a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations and a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations.

A drone with an advanced license has more flight permissions but must pass a more rigorous process that includes an advanced operations exam and a flight review.

There’s no flight review if you’re trying for a basic license.

Basic drone operations include only operating a drone in uncontrolled airspace, never flying over other people with your drone, and never flying within 30 horizontal meters of people with your drone.

If you use your drone in a fashion outside of the above, you need an advanced license. 

As for registering your drone, you can do that through Transport Canada. The drone must have its registration number visible on its body before you launch it.

Do not fly your drone over 400 feet

A drone cannot ascend over 400 feet from the ground under Transport Canada rules. If you’re from the United States, the same drone rule applies, so you should be able to follow this one no problem.

Do not fly closer than 30 meters to crowds

Transport Canada prohibits drones from conducting operations close to crowds, even outside of advertised events. You cannot fly nearer than 30 horizontal meters with a basic operations license.

What are the consequences of illegally flying a drone in Ottawa?

Transport Canada strictly enforces its drone rules, so if you happen to disobey any of the regulations we laid out in the last section, you will swiftly face consequences.

If you enter restricted or controlled airspace with your drone and don’t have an SFOC, you’ll receive a fine. That also occurs if you use your drone without registering it, or if you register it but don’t mark it.

If you forego obtaining a pilot’s certificate, including a basic or advanced license, you’ll also receive a fine.

The fine is $5,000 CAD in each instance, which is approximately $3,670.42 USD. If you repeat any of the above violations, you’ll receive a fine again of the same amount.

If Transport Canada deems that you used your drone in a way that puts people or aircraft at risk, you’ll face an even heftier fine of $15,000 CAD, which is $11,011.27 USD.

Save your money and fly legally!

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Ottawa is Canada’s capital and an appealing place to visit. Transport Canada allows pilots to operate a drone in Canada, but you must follow their guidelines.

Namely, do not fly any closer than three nautical miles from airports, and limit your distance even more from heliports.

You also cannot fly close to people, and you’re prohibited from using your drone near buildings unless you have permission from the property owner or an inhabitant.

Don’t forget to register your drone and bring the proper license. No, an FAA license doesn’t count!

Get into the habit of assessing an area for hazards like power lines, fallen trees, and the like before you fly, as that’s required each time you launch a drone in Canada.

Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself!