Watch out for Drones!
New rules proposed for RPAS (also called Drones and UAVs)
Transport Canada’s Task Force for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) also called Drones and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) recently sent out a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA #2020-012). They want to expand the current Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) regulations for RPAS operations.
Their objective is to enable routine 'lower-risk' Beyond Visual Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS) for Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) and expanded Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) operations in Canada without Transport Canada having to issue Special Flight Operations Certificates (SFOCs).
The current drone rules allow operations in Class G airspace in 'empty' rural areas with drones weighing up to 25 kg with no real restrictions as long as they stay below 400 ft AGL. That airspace is not 'empty' and there is a real risk of collision with manned aircraft.
These new expanded operating rules will only increase that risk of collision:
1. Drone operations above 400ft AGL, in Class G airspace in areas defined as ‘isolated’ (which, in reality, are not isolated)
2. Heavier drones up to 650 kg (weighing more than Canadian ultralights and other light aircraft)
3. Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations not compliant with VFR ('flying blind') 4. No SFOC in most cases (limited TC oversight)
5. A flawed risk analysis – using Ground Risk population density in Air Risk analysis.
Individually, each of these changes increases the risk of collision with other aircraft. Add them up - heavier drones, flying higher, ‘flying blind’ in airspace that is shared with manned aircraft, and without the TC oversight of an SFOC – and the risk of collision with manned aircraft increases dramatically.
The Task Force is seeking 'feedback and insight from industry on the proposed performance-and risk based approach' Send comments by email to TC.RPASRegulations-ReglementsSATP.TC@tc.gc.ca before the June 22 deadline!
When you comment, include a few details about where in Canada you fly, what sort of aerodrome or farm strip you fly from, and how these proposed rules might impact you. Include any encounters you may have had with RPAS/Drones/UAVs.
You can read or download the text of the NPA from UPAC's website (www.upac.ca). You will also find UPAC's response, with expanded explanations and sources, to these proposed rules there.
Don't miss the June 22 deadline! Transport needs to hear from all of us who operate manned aircraft from rural registered and unregistered aerodromes in what Transport Canada is calling ‘isolated areas.’
More details on 1 to 5 above
1. The Task Force treats Class G airspace below 400 ft. AGL as sterile airspace; and states “there is no traditional air traffic” there. (from page 13 of the NPA)
We know this is not true and that aviation activity occurs in Class G airspace below 400 ft. AGL. These activities include helicopters, ultralights, foot launched powered paragliders, agricultural operations, hang glider launches, paraglider launches, glider flights, sky diving, balloons, and flight training. See CAR 602.14(2)(b).
The current rules require drone operators to get permission before entering controlled airspace at an airport. Drone operators also have to check the Canada Flight and Water Aerodromes Supplements for registered aerodromes. When a drone operator finds a registered aerodrome, the only rule is to avoid interfering “with an aircraft operating in the established traffic pattern.” CAR 901.47(1)
There is no requirement for drone operators to locate or avoid operations at or near the more than 4,000 unregistered Canadian aerodromes. They only have to ‘avoid a risk of collision …’ (See CAR 901.18). The proposed new rules do not change this.
2. The new rules propose increasing the max weight for drone operations by a factor of 25 - from 25 kg to 650 kg. (1430 lbs) This weight is higher than the max weight of our Canadian Ultralights (BULA at 546 kg, AULA at 560 kg.). This weight is also higher than many Canadian Amateur-built aircraft and Classic light aircraft built by Piper, Aeronca, Taylorcraft, Luscombe, and Ercoupe, to name a few.
3. The proposed rules will allow Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations where operations are deemed to be ‘low risk.’ Currently, BVLOS operations require an SFOC issued by Transport Canada.
Drone pilots ‘operating BVLOS cannot not comply with VFR’ rules and so are essentially 'flying blind' when it comes to locating nearby VFR aircraft. (See Annex C, JARUS guidelines on SORA).
4. For BVLOS operations deemed “low risk,” there will be limited TC oversight. Operators of drones weighing up to 650 kg, will not require an SFOC for ‘low risk’ operations in isolated areas.
5. The Air Risk analysis is flawed. In the NPA, an 'isolated area' is defined as having a population density of fewer than 25 people per km². This addresses the risk of injury to people on the ground (Grounds Risk). The term 'isolated area' also appears in the NPA on page 13 where 'Air Risk - [level] a' is defined as “isolated areas where there are no traditional aircraft.”
Population density on the ground does not reflect air traffic. Therefore, the term ‘isolated area’ cannot not be used when discussing the Air Risk of Collision with aircraft. The Air Risk analysis needs to be done again.
The flawed Air Risk analysis also raises doubts about the validity of the 'performance and risk based approach' which Transport Canada wants to use for these expanded RPAS/Drone/UAV operations.
Make sure you comment! Email to TC.RPASRegulations-ReglementsSATP.TC@tc.gc.ca
Transport needs to hear from all of us who operate manned aircraft in what Transport Canada is calling ‘isolated areas.’
For the past three weeks, COPA has been participating in meetings with Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) and over 200 other representatives from the aviation industry. The purpose of these meetings is to share information and find solutions that are applicable to the diverse sphere of Canadian aviation. The meetings include discussion surrounding exemptions that may be required to continue operations, to maintain legality, and also to offer flexibility during these difficult times.
TCCA elaborated on specific matters affecting the entire industry, including two critical elements:
1 - Health Services: Doctors as well as all health practitioners are part of the first line of defence and they are literally overwhelmed with work. The situation will eventually make it difficult to schedule an appointment to renew Aviation Medical Certificates;
2 - Aviation-related Services: Services related to the maintenance of aircraft as well as aerial operations have been designated "essential services". Businesses supporting the aviation industry can therefore continue their normal operations. Note that these operations will almost certainly be affected by present circumstances and delays should be expected.
In regards to item 1, Health Services, TC published the following exemption:
All aviation medical certificates expiring on or before June 1st, 2020 will have an extended validity until August 1st, 2020. You can view the detailed exemption notice #NCR-021-2020 at this link. In addition, no new medical certificates will be issued during this exemption period.
In regards to item 2, Aviation-related Services, TCCA has decided that the following cases do not require an exemption:
o Instrument rating requirements: no exemption
o Instrument rating recency requirements: no exemption
o Annual aircraft inspections: the original response from TCCA was that no exemption was required on this matter, but COPA has asked them to revisit this point or to formulate a plan for resuming inspections once the quarantine is over, in light of the exceptions raised since the restrictions began.
To that end, COPA advises the following:
1. Even if there are no aviation-specific restrictions to date, COPA recommends following the guidelines/restrictions published by the government that are applicable to all citizens;
2. In addition, we have asked TCCA if there are any guidelines in place or to come regarding the use of private aircraft (GA):
o Officially, no, TCCA has no new or planned guidelines specific to GA. However, the guidelines published by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) do apply - see the infographic at the bottom of the page as well as your provincial and local directives.
o There are also restrictions regarding aircraft arriving from other countries. Details are available on the government website.
3. Transborder flights: as the situation rapidly evolves, COPA recommends checking-in with the appropriate agencies prior to embarking on cross-border flights. Note that the CBSA recommends limiting flights to only those that are absolutely necessary, no tourism flights or otherwise. The guidelines can be found here;
COPA's recommendations are along these lines. We strongly advise you to respect the official restrictions, use your good judgement, and distinguish between which services are essential and which are not. It is up to you to use common sense. If your flight is not essential and can wait, stay home.
Do not hesitate to send me your questions,
Jean Claude (JC) Audet
VP Operations COPA