New rules proposed for RPAS (also called Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAS)
by Kathy Lubitz, Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada
Transport Canada’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (Drone/UAS) Task Force sent out a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA #2020-012). They want to greatly expand the current Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) regulations for Drone (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).
Here are some of the proposed changes:
- RPAS/Drone/UAVs operations above 400ft AGL, in areas defined as ‘isolated’ (which, in reality, are not isolated)
- Heavier drones up to 650 kg (weighing more than Canadian ultralights and other light aircraft)
- BVLOS operations not complying with VFR (‘flying blind’)
- No SFOC in most cases (limited TC oversight)
- A flawed risk analysis – using Ground Risk population density in Air Risk analyses.
Individually, each of these issues 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.
Click here to download the text of the RPAS NPA proposed rules.
Click here for UPAC’s response for UPAC’s response to the RPAS Task Force
The Task Force is looking for ‘feedback and insight from industry on the proposed performance-and risk-based approach.’ The deadline for comments is June 22. Email your comments to TC.RPASRegulations-ReglementsSATP.TC@tc.gc.ca
It is important for you to 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 might have had with drones.
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’!
Comment by June 22!
- There is already a safety issue with the current drone rules for pilots operating manned aircraft in Class G airspace from rural aerodromes. The Task Force treats this rural airspace as sterile airspace; the task force states “there is no traditional air traffic” in these areas. (from page 13 of the NPA)
We know this is not true. Aviation activities legally operating in Class G rural airspace at registered and unregistered airstrips, and below 400 ft. AGL include helicopters, ultralights, foot launched powered paragliders, agricultural operations, hang glider and paraglider launches, glider flights, sky diving, balloons, and flight training. See CAR 602.14(2)(b).
Current rules in CAR Part IX require drone pilots to get permission from Air Traffic Control before entering controlled airspace at an airport and to check the Canada Flight Supplement and Water Aerodromes Supplement 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 are at least three times the number of unregistered aerodromes as registered aerodromes, approximately 4,000 and mostly in rural areas. There is no requirement for drone pilots to stay away from any of these rural, unregistered aerodromes. The only requirement is to ‘avoid a risk of collision …’ (See CAR 901.18). The proposed new rules do not change these requirements. Nor do they address these issues.
- The new rules propose increasing the max weight for drone operations by a factor of 25 – from 25 kg to 650 kg. This weight is higher than the max weight of our Canadian ULs! (BULA at 546 kg, AULA at 560 kg.)
- 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. (See Annex C, JARUS guidelines on SORA) Since BVLOS drone pilots don’t have to maintain visual contact with the drone, they are essentially flying blind when it comes to locating nearby VFR aircraft.
- For BVLOS operations deemed “low risk,” there will be limited TC oversight – no SFOC. Operators of drones weighing up to 650 kg, will not a an SFOC for ‘low risk’ operations.
Who will determine what ‘level of risk’ is acceptable? And the Risk to whom – the RPAS operator? The pilot of the manned aircraft? People on the ground?
- The Air Risk analysis is was 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.”
Since population density on the ground does reflect the amount of air traffic, the term ‘isolated area’ from the Ground Risk analysis cannot also be used in an discussion about Air Risk of Collision with maned aircraft.
The flawed Air Risk analysis seriously understates the risk to manned aircraft flying near a RPAS operations. The Air Risk analyses need to be done again.