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So where can we fly our drones in Vancouver? Long story short.. Nowhere.

Short story long.. last week Transport Minister for Canada announced some new long awaited and needed laws to keep drone users in check. Below is a basic over view of the new drone flying laws.


  • higher than 90 m above the ground
  • closer than 75 m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.
  • closer than nine km from the centre of an aerodrome (any airport, heliport, seaplane base or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land)
  • within controlled or restricted airspace
  • within nine km of a forest fire
  • where it could interfere with police or first responders
  • at night or in clouds
  • if you can’t keep it in sight at all times
  • if you are not within 500 m of your drone
  • if your name, address, and telephone number are not clearly marked on your drone.

To a drone pilot, a bunch of these rules make sense. Some are are even too light, others are maybe a bit too tough but overall they will be able to still enjoy being a recreational drone user, or keep their business going. To drone users in the Greater Vancouver area specifically, they are forced to wonder if it’s all worth it. The new rules basically block the whole area from being flown in, see screenshot below.

Drone fly vancouver 01

Drawing out aviation rules must have been of the ministers desk for a long time with pressure from airports and such to get these rules in place. There’s no debate that clear and strict rules were needed as there are idiots buying drones and doing daft things with them, there are even adults buying these things for their children! Some people think they are toys, some people think they’re for spying and some people think they are for harm. Drones are for videography and photography. Recently they’ve been used to save lives in Rawanda and Madagascar, they are helping first responders, they are helping scientists gain more information, they are now being used in the agriculture trade and many many more!

The Canadian Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, is a literal hero, a man that has done things and seen things that would blow your mind. He was an astronaut, an explorer, you would think he would understand the importance of finding balance in these laws. I am not disrespecting this man, but his team have pieced together rules that are going to limit creativity, slow down trade and effect a lot of businesses with in the Greater Vancouver area. It feels weird to say I am upset by this, but I genuinely am. I’ve been learning to fly for over a year and it’s my favourite hobby. I wait all week to go out on Saturday’s to fly and take photos, and it’s been taken away because of rules that are out of proportion. Drones vancouver

The image above is rather depressing. The only place to fly is Wreck Beach and you can’t if someone is there, which is always. I think any non-flyer can see that these rules are way over the top. There are so many safe places to fly in this area, but everywhere just been jammed into a no fly zone by thoughtless laws. I say thoughtless, but they’re not really. If you did take a look through the full list of laws you’ll see they have been put together with a lot of time and effort, they just happen to make it impossible to fly.

Drone flying vancouver

Please don’t use these images as a reference as to where you can and can’t fly,  I did not mark out the whole list of airports, air harbours, heliports etc. I just didn’t have time to do them all so there are more to add to this map.

So what does it mean for drone flyers in Vancouver? I can’t speak for anyone but I’m positive users will find it difficult to stick to these rules. For one, there was no map supplied by the government to highlight where you can and cannot fly so there’s no help from government to avoid breaking their laws.

There are of course ways to get an exemption to fly your aircraft within these parameters, but they make it more than difficult to get an exemption, in fact i’m still waiting on word back from them asking for more details. A quick browse through this will give you a glimpse into what’s expected, including liability insurance of up to $100,000, which seems a bit low when our drones are such dangerous objects, after all a tiny drone can take down an airplane. This is not a casual process. Going out at the weekend for a fly is over. A spontaneous fly on a beautiful day is over.

What’s next for me.. I’m not sure. I don’t have time or money to complete pilot courses. I don’t have time on weekends to drive out of the no fly zones every time I want to fly, but I don’t think I’m done flying, it’ll be coming with me wherever I go.

If you want to help support getting fair and safe laws for drones then check out NODE. Drone giants, DJI, have helped get this movement up and running and they are looking for fair treatment to drone pilots. Together we can make sure drones only take off in the hands of responsible pilots and are used in safe zones and continue to serve the world for the better.


Article on how to find the balance

Twitter reactions

This is a very worrying one…

Some thoughts from Youtuber iN SIGHT which also has an interesting comment section.


After doing all this I found a tool on the National Research Council Canada site that shows you where you can and can not fly. View if you dare.


Transport Canada recently updated their tight rules, which is a big surprise, but great news!

You can now fly your drone:

  • Within 90 m above the ground or lower 30m away from vehicles, vessels, and the public (if your drone weighs more than 250g up to 1kg)
  • 75m away from vehicles, vessels, and the public (if your drone weighs more than 1kg up to 35kg)
  • 5.5km from aerodromes (any airport, seaplane base, or areas where aircraft take-off and land)
  • 1.8km away from heliports or aerodromes used exclusively by helicopters outside of controlled or restricted airspace At least 9 km away from a natural hazard or disaster area
  • Away from areas where it could interfere with police or first responders
  • During the day and not in clouds Within your sight at all times
  • Within 500 m of yourself or closer Only if clearly marked with your name, address and telephone number

The most notable changes are:

  • The elimination of distance restrictions to buildings and animals
  • The reduction of distance restrictions to vehicles, vessels and the public for drones weighing more than 250 grams but less than 1kg
  • The reduction of distance restrictions to aerodromes and heliports for drones weighing up to 35kg

But… still nowhere.

drone vancouver

You can read more here.