New Rules for Drone Operation
Drones – or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) – are becoming increasingly popular in a number of industries, ranging from fire services to international aid organizations and delivery companies. Real estate professionals are also using drones to capture panoramic images which give potential buyers better views of a property.
However, using drones to photograph properties can risk violating aviation regulations and may be infringing on the privacy rights of neighbouring property owners. Before you launch that drone, ensure you’re staying within the law and the new Transport Canada rules effective June 1, 2019.
Transport Canada Regulations
According to Transport Canada, drone pilots must follow the rules under the Canadian Aviation Regulations that apply to remotely piloted aircraft systems.
The new rules include drone registration and the requirement for operators to have a drone pilot certificate for drones weighing between 250 grams (about half a pound) and 25 kilograms (about 55 pounds). The weight of your drone, distance from bystanders and airspace rules define your category. Drones that are under 250 grams do not require registration or a pilot certificate.
Many locations throughout BC require advanced operations because of controlled airspace as shown in the airspace image below. There are many restricted or controlled airspaces throughout the province as the map shows. Drones may fly in these areas but only with an advanced license and with permission.
Operators who fly drones for business purposes without permission risk penalties from Transport Canada including fines of up to $3,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a business. If you break more than one rule, you could receive multiple penalties. Real estate professionals are reminded that they must promptly notify RECBC in writing if they are charged with (or convicted of) an offence under a federal or provincial enactment or under a foreign law, as per section 2-21(2)(d) of the Real Estate Rules. A real estate professional found to have violated Transport Canada regulations is subject to investigation, which may result in disciplinary action by RECBC.
Privacy and Trespassing Risks
Drones equipped with cameras could be breaching privacy rights of neighbouring property owners. Real estate professionals operating drones must be aware that under BC’s Privacy Act, individuals have the right to sue others for violating their privacy without permission. Under Transport Canada regulations, drone operators must respect laws regarding privacy and trespassing. It is recommended that you inform neighbouring property owners and seek their permission before photographing listings from the air.
Potential for Property Damage
Drones may cause property damage if used irresponsibly. After an unauthorized drone grounded water bombers and firefighting crews in southern BC for several hours during the summer of 2015, the BC Wildfire Service prohibited the use of drones within five miles of a forest fire. Violators can face fines of up to $100,000 and/or one year in jail.
Explore the option of consulting a professional drone service or attending a drone flight school.