Canada has eased some of the tight restrictions it placed on drone flying in the country, modifying what’s called an Interim Order. The new changes mean pilots will now be able to fly drones weighing up to a kilogram in many parks within city limits, something that was virtually impossible under the previously issued order. (This is assuming that the city does not have a bylaw prohibiting drone of model aircraft flights in municipal parks. Toronto does have such a bylaw, btw. It can be found in #608-19 here.)

Under quite strict rules issued in March, anyone flying a drone weighing more than 250 grams had to be at least 75 metres away from other people, buildings, vehicles and animals. That meant if you were flying in a park and a jogger or dog came within that limit, you would be breaking the rules and potentially subject to a heavy fine.

Understandably, recreational (and many professional) drone pilots got quite upset about the new regulations. But – though there were several smaller organizations representing the interests of certain segments of the drone crowd (RC groups, commercial drone operators, etc), – there wasn’t really a single body with a single unified voice. And that meant that an lobbying from the recreational side was fairly week.

Enter NODE – the Network Of Drone Enthusiasts.

The NODE Campaign Logo

The N.O.D.E. campaign logo

The DJI-Backed initiative had recently launched in the US to help drone operators effectively lobby. And then, soon after the March Interim Order, it expanded into Canada.

That was Phase One. Phase Two involved organizing a Canadian campaign, and making it easy for drone operators to effectively have their voices heard. As a result of that campaign, more than two thousand drone operators (and counting) were able to submit their thoughts online, urging Transport Canada to ease the regulations.

NODE Organizes, Urges Canadian Drone Pilots To Lobby For More Reasonable Rules

Now, Transport Canada has issued a revised interim order. It has reduced the no-fly-zone near airports to five kilometres instead of nine kilometres, and reduced the required distance from people or vehicles to 30 metres, providing the drone weighs between 250 grams and one kilogram. The requirement that drones be at least 75 metres away from buildings has been removed entirely.

Here’s a snapshot of the new Interim Order:

Canada's new Interim Order on recreational drone use, in a nutshell

Canada’s new Interim Order on recreational drone use, in a nutshell

In a news release issued today, DJI welcomed the initiative and “expressed its appreciation to the Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, for Transport Canada’s revised Interim Order on drone use.”

The release explains that DJI had called on Minister Garneau to make “reasonable changes” until new regulations are firmly established, adding that it “appreciates Minister Garneau’s efforts to respond to the concerns of safe and responsible drone pilots.

“The revised Interim Order is a step in the right direction,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs. “The extremely restrictive rules in the original Order prohibited a wide range of perfectly safe activities that are permitted by many other jurisdictions worldwide. The new version delivers some improvements. We commend the government for taking this step while working on permanent rules.”

“An ideal regulatory regime would adequately mitigate the risk of injury and property damage while allowing innovators the freedom to experiment and to use drones with minimal burdens or barriers to entry,” said Eric Ebenstein, DJI Head of North America Public Policy. “We believe Canada can craft a world-leading regulatory regime that protects safety while encouraging innovation.”

Already, Canadian drone pilots are welcoming the revised Interim Order, and hoping it’s a step toward permanent rules that allow responsible pilots to continue enjoying this hobby. Others, however, are already noting online that the new rules will still make it difficult to for urban pilots to fly drones weighing in excess of one kilogram in all but the largest, most sparsely populated parks.