(Updated November 1, 2023)
MAAC Safety and Transport Canada Advisory Groups have paved the way for a return to flying inside controlled airspace. As you should all know, our Leigh’s Bay field is 3.8 nautical miles from the centre of the Sault Airport, which puts us in controlled airspace.
There are several steps that need to be completed before we return; these are:
- Prepare a set of club rules that meet the requirements to return,
- Earn a Site Operating Certificate for the Leigh’s Bay field from the MAAC Safety Advisory group,
- Members must take a drone pilot online exam: Small Advanced Exam (Transport Canada (TC) Link), you must pass this exam and your flight review to get your Pilot Certificate – Here is the knowledge requirements for the RPAS 250 g up to and including 25 kg (Transport Canada (TC) Link).
- Members must register their models through the Drone Management Portal (TC Link to Portal) and provide a Manufacturer’s safety declaration
- Understand how to create a Site Survey
The club already has a Site Operating Certificate (SOC) for Leigh’s Bay for sub-250-gram models. These are referred to as mRPAS and do not fall into the full range of the CARs Part IX regulations (TC link). We have not taken full advantage of this SOC as we are flying indoors and at Elliot Park. We are rewriting the approved SOC rules to meet the additional requirements. We do have several examples of approved site rules for fields that have been approved for Class C Controlled Airspace. Leigh’s Bay falls into Class D Controlled Airspace, so there will be some differences between the two.
Site Operating Certificate
MAAC Board of Directors is moving MAAC from a collection of good old boys, flying stick and tissue rubber band powered models to a responsible organization overseeing participants flying 30 lb aircraft powered by 10 hp gas and electric motors. Unlike the models of the founding members, the models of today are more powerful, faster, heavier and far more complex. We, as an association, need to recognize these facts and change our focus.
As we (modelling in general) plan our events and activities, we need to ensure all safety considerations are acted upon. To this end, an SOC process is being developed to cover every eventuality where we interact with the public. Mall shows, club meetings, indoor flying, outdoor flying etc. are all on the table.
The club executive will need to prepare SOCs for everything in the future.
At this point, we will have the rules for Leigh’s Bay ready and submitted for review soon. An advantage is that we generally don’t use the site in the winter. Once approved, an SOC will be issued for “regular:RPAS operations (models up to 25kgs).
Transport Canada Pilot Certificates
To be allowed to fly any small RPAS (up to 25 kilograms) one must be in possession of a Transport Canada Advanced Pilot’s Certificate. Many of our members have already achieved their Basic Certificate (TC Link). The Basic Certificate exam, taken on the Transport Canada Drone Portal has 50 questions, on a range of aviation topics. A pass is 60%, you have 90 minutes to complete the exam. A Basic Certificate allows you to operate your drone in Uncontrolled Airspace, provided your follow a few simple rules.
To fly in Controlled airspace, you must achieve the Advanced Pilot Certificate. This is a two-step process. There is the written test on the Transport Canada Drone site. The test is the same 50 questions, however, only 60 minutes is allowed to take the exam and the passing grade is 80%.
The second step is a practical flight examination where you have a review with a certified examiner and actually put a flight in demonstrating your skill with your aircraft. This is a challenge as there are no Drone Flight examiners locally. There was some confusion at the last meeting over this point. The written exam is $10 (per time). The flight test can be up to $300, depending on the examiner. Another fly in the ointment is that few flight examiners have fixed wing, normal model experience.
At this point, my advice is to challenge the advanced certificate initially. There is no progression from Basic to Advanced. Passing the Advanced written test earns you the Basic level until you have been successful with the practical exam. Think of your driver’s license – written test and driving test – sort of the same concept. The tests are “open book”. On your computer, have the test open in one tab, have google open in another. Google search on the question you don’t know.
Transport Canada Drone Registration
All drones must be registered with Transport Canada, at a fee of $5, per drone. There are two registration levels, one for uncontrolled airspace, one for controlled airspace. Fairly anything can be flown in uncontrolled airspace, within a few parameters. Only drone that have a Manufacturer’s Safety Declaration may be flown in controlled airspace.
MAAC has negotiated with Transport Canada to be listed as a Manufacturer. This allows the owner of the model aircraft to register their model airplane to fly in controlled airspace. A simple document needs to be completed (the template is on the MAAC Safety Committee page – MPPD 27 – MAAC Manufacturer Declaration Template, Microsoft WORD file here) I had one at the last meeting and when we get there, we will have a training session to help complete the registration. All drones need to be registered – I don’t know anyone yet who has registered every single model. My advice is that you should have unique registrations on each aircraft you may bring (I.e. you typically bring 4 models to any one flying session – you might want to have 4 registrations.
We have discussed the requirement to complete a site survey each time we are at the field, regardless of the field. A single survey is sufficient, as long as the information in the survey is shared with all participants or printed and posted at the field.
RPAS Wilco is an application for your cell phone that achieves all the requirements of the site survey identified in the CARs Part IX regulations. It also has provisions for incident reporting, checklists – pre-flight and post-flight and other advantages. I realize this is a cellular data usage and that some members do not have a data plan. We can cross this bridge later.
Nav Canada Notice
The last issue is notifying NAV Canada that drone operations will be conducted in Controlled Airspace identifying the dates and times and a whole list of other issues. These are individual noticed, so, unlike a site survey, every individual flying in controlled airspace needs to report. Similar to contacting CBSA when you take a rowboat across the river and return. Each individual needs to report returning to Canada and their customs declaration.
Suffice to say, the SAG and TCAG are working on ameliorating this dilemma.
As I said, fortunately we have the winter to prepare to return to Leigh’s Bay. There is no way out; whether we like it or not, this is the future of flying radio-controlled model airplanes in Canada.
Across the country there have been differing reactions. There have been younger members decide to quit and take up needlepoint, there have been other members (in NORTH BAY, an 80-year-old member) have accepted the changes and met the requirements. We will continue to stay on top on this evolving situation and react accordingly.