Wouldn’t it be fun to fly a drone in Canada? You can expand your horizons and capture incredible sights with your drone’s camera.
Before you plan your first flight, double-check whether your drone needs to be registered. How do you register a drone in Canada?
Register your drone in Canada through Transport Canada’s Drone Management Portal. You must have a GCKey or a secure online banking partner to register on the portal. You must also have information about your drone, a purchase date, and a payment method.
You probably have many questions about registering a drone in Canada. Well, don’t sweat it, as I’ve got answers.
Continue reading for all the info you need to confidently register your drone so you can get out there and fly!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Can I fly a drone in Canada?
Drones are legal in Canada according to Transport Canada laws. However, this aviation organization has overarching rules pilots must obey.
You must have a license for drones weighing between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. Transport Canada allows pilots 14 years and up to apply for a Basic License and 16 years for an Advanced License.
What if you’re younger and want to fly?
You must be with someone who has a license, including in youth group, camp, and club applications.
You must also register your drone if it weighs at least 250 grams, whether it’s a store-bought or custom drone.
If you enter controlled airspace designated as Classes C, D, and/or E, request NAV CANADA clearance before launching.
» MORE: Top Canadian Drone Courses
Can I bring a drone to Canada by plane?
You can fly a drone in Canada, but how will you transport it? Can you bring a drone onto a plane en route to Canada, or will you get held up in customs?
You can transport your drone to Canada via plane. Here are some pointers to ensure a smooth, stress-free process.
Have your paperwork handy
You might be asked to produce your drone license or registration, so have these documents ready to show the airport agent during your security check.
Make copies if you’re not comfortable traveling out of the country with the original documents.
Invest in a drone case
I would still recommend a drone case even if you have a toy drone you spent less than $100 on. Tossing your drone loose in your luggage is almost a guaranteed way to ensure it doesn’t survive the trip.
Wrapping it in newspaper or old T-shirts won’t cut it. That method offers very little safeguarding against the drone being banged around and shaken up.
A drone case designed for your exact UAV make and model will ensure a perfect fit so that the drone won’t jostle around in the case.
» MORE: Best Compact Drones for Travel
Bring your drone in your carry-on or checked luggage
However, a case isn’t enough to ensure your drone safely makes it from Point A to Point B.
The airline staff can mishandle your drone during the flight or while exiting, often without realizing what’s in your bags.
The best way to protect it is to carry the drone with you as checked luggage or in a carry-on.
Every airline has its own size and weight requirements for carry-ons and checked luggage. Review the airline’s rules and buy a drone case that meets those parameters.
Check the airline’s battery transportation policy
Bringing drone batteries on your flight is convenient but sometimes disallowed. The airline will clarify its policy on batteries on its website.
Batteries can overheat on a flight and possibly explode, causing a safety hazard.
If you can’t bring batteries on your flight, you’ll have to purchase them when you arrive in Canada.
Can I register a drone in Canada as a non-resident?
You and your drone have safely arrived in Canada. However, you don’t plan on staying, only visiting. You know you must register your drone before flying, but how do you do that as a non-resident?
According to this page on Transport Canada’s website, you can’t register your drone as a foreign pilot.
You must have a Special Flight Operations Certificate or SFOC for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System or RPAS, whether flying a drone commercially or recreationally as a non-resident in Canada.
You also need a drone pilot certificate issued through Transport Canada. Your FAA drone license (or the certificate from any other country of origin) won’t do you any good here.
How to register a drone in Canada (Step by step)
You must register a drone in Canada if you’re a native resident with a UAV weighing 250 grams to 25 kilograms.
Your drone can weigh less than that, but you must still register it if you use accessories or equipment that pushes it over the weight limit.
You don’t have to register drones that weigh more than 250 kilograms. However, Transport Canada requires you to have an SFOC-RPAS in those scenarios.
Let’s review all the steps to register a drone in Canada.
Step 1 – Create an account on the Drone Management Portal
The Drone Management Portal is a Transport Canada portal for storing and updating contact information, applying for drone certificates, tracking flight review results, taking exams, checking exam results, and drone registration and deregistration.
The link is here.
You have two ways to sign into the Drone Management Portal: through your secure online banking partner or your GCKey.
The accepted banking partners are:
- TD Bank
- Simplii Financial
- Servus Credit Unit
- National Bank
- Libro Credit Union
- Conexus Credit Union
- Coast Capital
- Caisse Alliance
- Affinity Credit Union
A GCKey is a means of authentication provided by the Canadian government. Each GCKey is unique and allows you to use government services.
You should have one as a resident, but if you don’t, you can sign up for your GCKey here.
Click the blue Sign Up button to request a GCKey, then sign in afterward to use it.
Step 2 – Log into your Drone Management Portal account
You can log into the Drone Management Portal through your bank if you select that option or use your GCKey to gain access.
You don’t have to register for a new account through the Drone Management Portal, which is handy.
Step 3 – Register your drone
Next, begin the registration steps by following the prompts. You must have information ready on your drone, including the type, weight, serial number, make, model, and purchase date. You don’t need a purchase date if you custom-built your drone.
Step 4 – Pay the fee
The fee to register a drone through Transport Canada is $5 CAD per drone. You can pay at the end of the process using your Interac, American Express, Mastercard, or Visa card.
Step 5 – Mark your drone
Once you register your drone, Transport Canada requires you to mark the drone with the new registration number. The number should be placed in a visible area of your drone.
Can I fly my drone registered in the USA in Canada?
If you’re interested in flying a drone in Canada that you registered in the USA, that makes you a non-resident of Canada, so you can’t register your drone anyway.
However, registration rarely translates from one country to another unless you travel between European Union countries with your drone.
Even if you live in Canada but traveled to the USA and registered your drone there, you should register the drone when you get back to your native Canada.
Are Canadian drone laws different from the USA?
Canadian and US drone laws might share similarities, but you’re best off treating them like two separate sets of laws.
These countries aren’t governed by the same aeronautic entity, so don’t assume the rules you’re used to in the US translate to Canada.
» MORE: Drone Laws in the United States
Drone laws in Canada for recreational and commercial use
Apply for a license before flying
Most recreational pilots are fine with a Basic License, which permits you to fly more than 1 nautical mile from certified heliports, over 3 miles from certified military aerodromes or airports, and in uncontrolled airspace.
However, under a Basic License, pilots cannot fly over bystanders or 100 horizontal feet (30 meters) from crowds.
You must register your drone, then take the Small Basic Exam and pass. The Small Basic Exam includes 35 questions in multiple-choice format.
You will have 90 minutes to complete the test and must score at least 65 percent.
Your other option is an Advanced License.
Many Canadian drone pilots apply for this license through Transport Canada.
An Advanced License allows you to fly within 3 nautical miles of a military aerodrome or certified airport, within 100 feet or 30 horizontal meters of bystanders, and over bystanders.
Obtaining an Advanced License is more involved. First, you must successfully pass the Small Advanced Exam.
This test has 50 questions (still in multiple-choice format), and you have only 60 minutes to complete it. You must score 80 percent.
Next, contact a flight reviewer through a drone flight school to set up a flight review. You must pass the Small Advanced Exam first and have proof of a passing grade.
You also need a government-issued identification card showing your date of birth and full name and a registration certificate.
Flight reviews are sometimes free, but not exclusively.
It’s at the reviewer’s discretion what you’ll be asked to do, but they want to see the full breadth of your drone flying abilities. The flight reviewer will send in results up to 24 hours after your review.
If you pass, you’ll receive your Advanced License.
AlteX Drone Ground School covers all fundamental knowledge for Transport Canada’s Written Exam for a pilot of small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, RPAS or commonly known as drones.
- Register your drone: All Canadian residents must register their drones before launching, including for recreational purposes.
- Stick within prescribed flight distances: A Basic License grants you many flight rights, but you must stick within the parameters of the license or are required to test for an Advanced License.
- Do not fly over 400 feet: The limit for drone pilots in Canada is 400 feet or 122 meters from ground level, both for commercial and recreational drone flights.
- Stay within controlled airspace: Basic License holders do not have permission to venture beyond controlled airspace, so know where you’re going before you launch your drone. It’s a different story for some Advanced License holders.
- Keep your distance from other aircraft: Transport Canada prohibits pilots from operating their drones near unmanned and manned aircraft like helicopters and planes.
- Limit your distance from heliports and airports: Pilots mustn’t fly closer than 1 nautical mile or 1.9 kilometers for the nearest heliport or 3 nautical miles or 5.6 kilometers from an airport.
- Do not fly during advertised events: Advertised events like parades, outdoor concerts, outdoor sporting events, and other similar events throughout Canada ban drone operation. Fly in a different part of town for the day.
- Do not fly near emergency operations: Any emergency operations also require drones to operate away from them. You could interrupt life-saving operations by piloting your drone too close.
- Always keep your drone in your visual line of sight: Your drone must remain your visual line or sight. VLOS is defined as how far you can see your drone through the naked eye or with contacts or glasses. However, it does not account for binoculars.
- Use lights for flying a drone at night: Canada permits pilots to operate after dark, but you must have lights on your drone to meet VLOS requirements.
What happens if you break drone laws in Canada?
Transport Canada doles out stiff punishments to pilots found guilty of breaking its drone laws. You will receive a four-figure penalty (in CAD) for your mistake.
You can receive a fine of $3,000 for risking other people or aircraft, $1,000 for flying outside of allowable airspace, $1,000 for foregoing registration (or failing to mark your drone), and $1,000 for flying without a license.
Those are only the fees for individual pilots, by the way. Pilots who are part of a company face even steeper penalties.
The charge is $15,000 for putting others at risk, $5,000 for flying in disallowed airspace, $5,000 for not registering your drone, and $5,000 for foregoing a license.
Those are the max allowable fees for each crime, but Transport Canada makes it clear that you can receive more than one fine at once. These fines apply to commercial and recreational pilots alike.
How to check for restricted areas in Canada
Staying outside of restricted areas is prudent as a drone pilot in Canada unless you have prior authorization.
How do you find restricted airspace?
Use a drone app! Some US-based apps might produce international maps, but I’d recommend a Canada-specific app for the most up-to-date notifications and alerts.
NAV CANADA is one such app to consider. You can use the app to plan your flights and report details. You can also check the latest air safety and traffic guidelines.
Drone Pilot Canada costs $59.99 but is worth every penny. After all, any fine issued by Transport Canada is steeper than that.
This app works in accordance with Transport Canada’s regulations, generating a map of your area that shows restricted versus unrestricted airspace.
You can easily tell which areas you shouldn’t fly and map your route accordingly.
Log your flights, including your flight time and location, weather, aircraft, and crew. Drone Flight Canada also provides pre-flight checklists, certification data, maintenance logging, registration data, and user records.
Do I need insurance to fly a drone in Canada?
Transport Canada only requires commercial pilots to have drone insurance. However, hobbyists should consider purchasing insurance too.
Commercial pilots must have liability insurance with a coverage limit that varies based on the drone’s weight category.
Insurance gives you peace of mind that you have protection if you get into an accident with your drone.
Transport Canada contact details
Do you need to reach Transport Canada about drone registration, licenses, or any other concerns? Here is their contact information.
- Website: Transport Canada
- Email (for general inquiries): ERAPapplications@tc.gc.ca
- Telephone: 613-302-6863