OTTAWA – Transport Minister Marc Garneau has issued tough new regulations for the use of drones in Canada, from banning drunk droning, to banning drones from flying in airspace near emergency scenes and airports.

Drone operators will now have to register their drones and pass an online test to receive certification to continue operating them.

These new changes apply to drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms that are operated within the pilot’s sight, regardless of whether the drones are being used recreationally or for work.

Among the new rules:

  • You can't pilot a drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or within 12 hours of consuming alcohol;
  • You must be over 14 years of age to apply for basic registered ownership and pass a test to become a certified pilot;
  • Drones cannot fly higher than 122 metres above ground level, or 30 metres above a building or structure;
  • Special certification is needed if you want to transport weapons or explosives;
  • You can’t transport living creatures on your drone; and
  • Unless a certified first responder, drones cannot fly over or near an emergency scene.

"This is very serious. If you put an object in the air, in the airspace of this country, you are in fact piloting it and if you cause an accident, that can have enormous repercussions," said Garneau in Montreal on Wednesday while unveiling the new rules.

The minister noted that the new regulations come with fines up to $25,000 or even jail time depending on the severity of the offence.

It will cost $5 to register a drone, and the pilot exam for basic operations costs $10, while the test for advanced drone operations is $25.

The changes come after consultation with the public and drone industry stakeholders, and after hundreds of reported drone safety incidents or near-misses in Canada. The department says these changes are aimed at improving aviation safety. 

According to Transport Canada, there are 193,500 remotely piloted aircraft systems in Canada, in contrast to the 37,000 "traditional" aircrafts such as commercial, cargo, or recreational small planes.

Rules around drone operations exist now, and will continue to apply until these new provisions come into effect on June 1.