Photo by First Officer Mike Sowsun


“I’ve hit small to medium sized birds that have damaged my aircraft. When I think of drones — made of metal and plastic — in the same airspace as me and my passengers, I can’t help but think it would be very damaging. If it hit a windshield it would come straight through.”

Captain, Embraer

There is a proliferation of drone use for both businesses and hobbyists around the world.

Drones have been reported in shared airspace by pilots around the world. Like bird strikes, impact with a drone can do significant damage to engines, windshields and other critical components of aircraft.

If operated unsafely or in a restricted area in airspace around an airport a drone poses a serious risk to aviation and ground safety.

ACPA’s position:

  • All of our pilots are constantly aware of their surroundings and they are prepared to take evasive action if required. In that sense, drones are similar to bird strikes, which also pose an ongoing risk around airports.
  • ACPA believes that Canada should align with our closest neighbour, the U.S., where under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, all drones must be registered so they can be traceable in the event of an incident and help enable return of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) if it is lost.
  • Education is critical for hobbyist drone operators – ACPA believes anyone who purchases a drone in Canada should be provided clear operational rules at time of purchase, as well as being required to register their device.
  • ACPA believes that commercial drones — over 25 kg and flown in controlled airspace — should operate under the same rules that apply to commercial aircraft and pilots.
  • As the proliferation of drones increases, Canada must continue to monitor the landscape around the world and ensure our regulations align with other jurisdictions.

Current regulations

Recreational drones pose little risk to aircraft so long as they are operated according to the regulations and outside of commercial airspace.

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used for commercial operations are required to adhere to stricter standards.

While there are different rules for commercial and recreational UAVs, both can be equally dangerous to an aircraft.

Recreational or commercial UAVs can pose a significant threat if they are:

  • not operated according to regulations,
  • not flying in full sight of the operator (i.e. not in clouds or fog),
  • flown in a restricted area, such as near an active airport.

Transport Canada guidelines specify that UAVs should not be flown:

  • at least 5.5 km away from aerodrome (any airport, seaplane base, or areas where aircraft take-off and land),
  • at least 1.8 km away from heliports or aerodromes used by helicopters only
  • higher than 90 metres from the ground,
  • within restricted or controlled airspace.

Recent news:

Air Canada jet has close encounter with drone near Saskatoon
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Drone near miss with Edmonton police helicopter prompts warning
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Fort McMurray fire crew issues warning to drone pilots
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CF-18s scrambled for drone at Ottawa airport
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