How Canada handles beyond visual line-of-sight drone operations
The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) proposes to restrict operations that are completed beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS). However, the FAA has invited comments regarding the proposed BVLOS restriction. In Canada, BVLOS operations are not yet mainstream, however they are attainable under the Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) system.
Transport Canada’s Staff Instruction 623-001 establishes the following conditions for BVLOS operations:
- BVLOS flights cannot take place outside of restricted airspace, unless the operator can mitigate risk to an acceptable level i.e. through the use of ground-based radar
- BVLOS flights must not be conducted over populated areas
- BVLOS flights must be conducted in visual meteorological conditions
- BVLOS flights cannot be conducted within controlled airspace
- BVLOS flights can only be conducted within 5 nautical miles of the point of departure
- The take-off and landing/recovery must be conducted within visual line-of-sight
- Direct radio line-of-sight capability must be maintained throughout the operating area
Canada is not alone in having established conditions for BVLOS operations. In fact, quite a few jurisdictions have more advanced regulations for BVLOS operations, including Australia, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Israel and Poland. As stakeholders submit comments to the FAA over the next two months, it’s important to look at how other jurisdictions are managing risk in BVLOS operations.