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Getting Started With Your Drone Program: Understanding Certification

Getting started with your drone program is both exciting and sometimes daunting. At Altohelix, we’re dedicating to supporting you through every step, ensuring a smooth and successful process. 

One of the first and most crucial steps in launching your drone program is obtaining certification for yourself and any team members who will be operating the drones. There are two types of certifications – basic operations and advanced operations. In this post you will learn the differences between them and help you determine which is needed for your team.


Basic Operations Certificate:


If you do not intend to fly near people or airports, the basic operations certificate is likely suitable for your needs. This certification allows you to operate your RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) within visual line of sight (VLOS) in uncontrolled airspace (Class G), and at least 30 meters horizontal distance away from bystanders. This means if you live near a larger airport, you more than likely will not be able to operate your drone near your house. If you have a basic certificate, you can always upgrade to an advanced certificate in the future if you find that your needs go beyond these restrictions.


Advanced Operations Certificate:


If you do intend to fly near people or airports, you will need the advanced operations certificate. This certification permits you to fly your RPAS within visual line of sight, in controlled airspace (Class C, D, or E) with the necessary approvals from the airspace operator. It also allows flights less than 30 meters horizontal distance from, or over, bystanders, as long as the RPAS manufacturer has declared that it is safe to do so. You can find this manufacturer information on Transport Canada’s “Choosing the Right Drone” page.


The final stage of acquiring an advanced operations certificate is completing a flight review. It consists of an assessment covering both your pre-flight or ground knowledge and your practical flying skills. This step ensures you meet the standards for safe drone operation. You do not need to complete a flight review for the basic certificate.


You can practice your flying legally outside of controlled airspace once you’ve completed your advanced operations written exam, as you are officially a basic certified pilot! Once you complete your flight review you will then be a fully certified advanced operations RPAS pilot.


Special Flight Operators Certificate:


If you intend to conduct an RPAS operation outside the scope of these limitations, you will likely need to acquire a Special Flight Operators Certificate – RPAS from Transport Canada. Examples of scenarios that would require an SFOC to conduct RPAS operations include:


• All beyond visual line of sight – or BVLOS – flights

• RPAS operations conducted at outdoor advertised events

• Operating an RPAS whose maximum takeoff weight exceeds 25 kilograms

• Operating an RPAS over 122 meters (400 feet) AGL (above ground level)


For more information about SFOCs, please consult Transport Canada’s RPAS

Homepage or contact us for help!

About Altohelix:


Altohelix is a Transport Canada accredited RPAS flight school which was established to be a national training centre for Canadian drone pilots. Our certified flight reviewers, who are all licensed general aviation commercial pilots, are committed to enhancing safety in the RPAS industry and bridging the gap between manned aviation and the drone industry. We offer training for both basic and advanced certifications as well as consultation on other operations. Get started with your certification today!

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