Agriculture, oil and gas industries embracing unmanned aircraft

The commercial use of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), sometimes called drones, has taken off, literally. Over the past four years, Transport Canada has seen a 1,400 per cent increase in requests for commercial permits to fly the aircraft, particularly to capture aerial imagery. Requests jumped from 66 to 1,020 between 2010 and 2014.

Transport Canada says the number could be higher except many Canadians users, both commercial and recreational, are unaware that they may need special permission to fly certain sizes of unmanned aircraft. Their use in the agriculture, oil and gas industries is particularly high, with permits numbering the highest in the Prairies and Ontario.

Under new regulations recently announced by Transport Canada, users may not need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate if their UAV weighs 25 kilograms or less. The new rules apply to commercial users and will help make Canadians in the air and on the ground safer.

“This approach will dramatically improve the ability of Canadian businesses to safely make use of this extremely capable technology while substantially reducing the time it takes to get authorization for more complex operations,” says Stewart Baillie, chairman of Unmanned Systems Canada. “Coupled with the recently announced awareness campaign, I believe that Canada now has one of the most effective and progressive regulatory frameworks in the world.”

Recreational users must ensure they fly safely and legally. Transport Canada’s UAV webpage,, provides information on operating guidelines and responsibilities.