So, you bought a drone: drone policies and procedures for Canadian firms

Author: Drew Tyler

The use of Remotely Controlled Aircraft (also known as Drones) by private and public entities increases each year. Emergency personnel, filmmakers, realtors, surveyors, insurance adjusters, construction enterprises, resource firms and others are continually discovering new benefits of drone technology. For example, this month it was reported that a drone was used as part of an organ transplant in Toronto.

There are various legal and regulatory implications associated with drone operations.  Firms and organizations considering adding drone technology to their business activities, either by operating the drone themselves or relying upon a vendor or sub-contractor, must ensure adequate policies and procedures are implemented prior to commencing drone operation. Such policies and procedures should address the following.

  • Aeronautics Act Compliance — Drone operations are regulated under the Aeronautics Act and drones are classified as aircraft. Registration, certification and operational parameters, including flight height and proximity to airports, are all regulated. Failure to operate drones in accordance with the regulations can result in penalties, serious property damage, personal injury and even death. Companies operating drones must have policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with Transport Canada’s regulatory requirements.
  • Canadian Transportation Agency — Certain drone operations are also regulated by the Canadian Transportation Agency. Prior to offering drone services, organizations must determine whether a licence is required from the Agency. Additional regulatory requirements, such as the filing of tariffs and demonstrating compliance with prescribed insurance requirements, may also be required.
  • Transportation Safety Board — Certain incidences or occurrences involving drone operations must be reported to the Transportation Safety Board. Policies and procedures should set protocols to ensure compliance with Transportation Safety Board reporting requirements.
  • Privacy — Drone operations may result in the collection, use and disclosure of individuals’ personal information. Organizations must ensure that their privacy policies adequately cover planned drone operations and that the use of drones complies with applicable privacy legislation.
  • Private claims and actions — The operation of drones could result in private causes of action, including breach of privacy, trespass, nuisance, and negligent damage to property or physical harm. Firms operating drones, or using vendors or sub-contractors for drone services, should establish policies to ensure that they minimize their potential exposure to private claims and that drone operators are adequately informed of what actions could result in potential legal liability.

Adding drone technology to your business is not as simple as buying an aircraft and learning to fly it at your local park. Organizations seeking to employ a drone as part of their business operations need to consider the regulatory and liability risks associated with drone operations and implement adequate policies and procedures to ensure drone operations are conducted safely, legally and with minimum legal risk to the organization.  Organizations contemplating the addition of drone technology to their business operations should seek legal advice on such policies prior to commencing drone operations.  Organizations seeking a sub-contractor or vendor for drone operations should ask to review the vendor’s or sub-contractor’s policies and procedures and ensure that the matters discussed above are adequately addressed.