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Can You Fly a Drone in Whistler?

If you want to get away and ski, Whistler is the place to do it. This town near Vancouver is known for Whistler Blackcomb, among Canada’s biggest ski resorts.

If flying a drone is also on your trip itinerary, you might wonder, can you take your drone to Whistler?

You can fly a drone in Whistler, but with many restrictions. Commercial drone use requires insurance and a permit, whereas recreational drone use is banned.  You’re prohibited from using a drone around Whistler Blackcomb without a permit, and you cannot fly within 9 kilometers of any helipad.

There are a lot of rules to go over if you’re hoping to launch a drone in Whistler. This guide will tell you everything you need to know, so make sure you keep reading!

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Can you fly a drone in Whistler?

Whistler was the site of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and is home to the Audain Art Museum, Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, and Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

As if the town wasn’t beloved enough, it allows drones, albeit with very tight restrictions.

For example, you cannot operate a recreational drone. Commercial drone use requires a film permit according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Whistler Blackcomb resort.

The municipality of Whistler also requires you to obtain a permit when using your drone commercially.

Even if you have a flight permit, you’re still prohibited from operating your drone within 9 kilometers of any helipad throughout Whistler.

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Obtaining a permit for commercial drone use in Whistler

How do you obtain a permit for commercial drone use in Whistler? That depends on whether you want a permit solely from the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort or if you seek municipality permission.

Here’s what you need to know.

Whistler Blackcomb permit

Whistler Blackcomb Resort’s drone policy went into effect in 2016. In that policy, the resort lays out all the requirements for commercial drone use permitting, so let’s go over them now.

You must contact the Whistler Blackcomb Public Relations Department by phone at 604-938-7768 or by email at publicrelations@whistlerblackcomb.com.

You can then put forth your commercial drone use request. You must include information like your drone make and model, its specifications (including weight), your intended flight plan, and information on you as a drone pilot.

For example, you must share your contact information, how many flights you’ve conducted, how long you’ve owned the drone, and other relevant experience.

You must also have at least $5 million in unmanned aerial vehicle liability insurance and $5 million in commercial general liability insurance.

You must put Whistler Blackcomb companies as the additional insured with a waiver of subrogation.

The information in the insurance must be printed thusly:

“Whistler Blackcomb Holdings, Inc., Vail Resorts Inc., 1068877 B.C. Ltd. and their respective subsidiaries, and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia.”

It can take upwards of seven days for you to receive flight approval.

Before that, a Whistler Blackcomb employee or representative may contact you to ask for your planned emergency notification procedures and the property orientation plans.

You will receive a radio for reaching the patrol channel during your flight.

If you use a drone illegally in, over, or around the Whistler Blackcomb resort, a resort employee or representative will ask you to stop and leave.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Halifax?

Municipality of Whistler permit

If you’re operating a drone outside of the Whistler Blackcomb resort, the municipality still requires you to obtain a commercial drone use permit.  

You must reach out to the RMOW Film Office at 604-935-8417 or at cvandeberg@whistler.ca. You will need flight insurance and a Special Flight Operations Certificate issued by Transport Canada.

Here’s the film permit application form (link). You can download and fill it out. Let’s go over the information requested in the form:

  • Your name and production name (including a production company name)
  • Your email address
  • Your home address
  • Your phone number
  • The type of production, including still photography, live broadcast, reality TV, TV series, multimedia, TV commercial, TV film, or feature film
  • The shoot times, shoot location, and shoot duration
  • The size of your crew
  • The site maintenance plan, including waste removal, recycling, and cleanup plans

In addition to the permit, you must have liability insurance putting the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Village Land Co. Ltd. (only when filming in the village of Whistler) as insured.

The insurance must be valued at $3 million.

Applying for a film permit in Whistler doesn’t come cheap. The application fee is $125 whether or not you receive approval.

If you get the permit, you must pay RMOW permitting fees, which are $300 a day. You’ll also have to pay a security deposit refundable at the completion of filming.

RMOW may require additional permits besides your film permit. You must also pay $6,000 in the form of a damage deposit for the initial 20 days of your project.

This fee is “to ensure that there is no damage to RMOW’s property, locations are restored to their original condition, and that filming fees are paid.”

If you film for over 20 days in Whistler, you will have to pay a second deposit. If you complete your project without causing damage, your deposit(s) will be returned to you.

Canadian drone flight laws for your trip to Whistler

When operating a drone in and around Whistler, you’re required to follow Transport Canada rules. Let’s go over them now.

You must be at least 18 years old

Transport Canada permits pilots 16 years old to use drones for research with academic supervision, but to fly unsupervised, you must be 18 and older.

Have liability insurance

The general requirement for pilots flying in Canada is to protect themselves and others with at least $100,000 in liability insurance.

You must have more if required, such as when applying for a film permit in Whistler.

Do not fly on private property without permission

If your Whistler drone project requires you to use someone’s private property or fly over it, you must contact them before operating your drone and ask for permission.

Do not fly there if you’re not granted verbal or written permission.

Carry pertinent documents on you

Transport Canada prefers that pilots always have a copy of their drone license and proof of liability insurance.

Maintain a direct line of sight on your drone

You must be able to see your drone at all times when operating it or usage is considered unsafe. If your drone extends beyond your visual line of sight, return it back to you or stop flying it immediately.

Only fly a single drone at once

You can only use one drone at a time in Canada, including one remote.

Give manned aircraft the right of way

Airport and heliport limits exist to keep drones away from manned aircraft. If you encounter manned aircraft during your flights through Whistler, give the manned aircraft the right of way.

Only use your drone in clear weather

You can operate a drone in winds under 15 meters, but you’re prohibited from flying in strong winds, rain, hail, icy, or clouds.

Do not fly your drone at night

You also cannot use a drone at night due to reduced visibility. Only operate your drone between dusk and dawn.

Create an emergency plan

What would you do if the worst happened during your drone flight?

You can’t leave these kinds of what-if situations up to chance. You must create a contingency plan before you operate your drone.

Check your drone before launching it

Finally, to ensure the safe usage of your drone, you must check your drone ahead of your flight. Only operate the drone according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

If you must contact air traffic control or emergency responders, do so before your flight.

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Whistler is an appealing resort town in Canada most known for the famed Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

You cannot operate your drone around Whistler recreationally.

If you wish to fly commercially to film or photograph this part of Canada, you must apply for a permit.

Keep in mind that you’ll need a different permit to fly your drone around the municipality of Whistler versus the Whistler Blackcomb resort. You’ll have to pay for the permits, and you must have drone insurance.

If you receive permission to use your drone in Whistler, always follow Transport Canada rules. Happy flying!