New network connects drone pilots with Flight Reviewers in Canada

An online drone Flight Review network is launching in Canada. It aims to make things easier for drone operators seeking a Flight Review, where a Transport Canada-endorsed Flight Reviewer observes proficiency with flying and quizzes the pilot about airspace and other safety regulations.

A couple of important pieces of background here. The first is that drones in Canada are referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, or RPAS. So we’ll use that terminology in the story. The second is that I have a personal interest in the website I’m about to describe because I’m one of the people behind it.

Let’s take a look.

Transport Canada

The federal Transport Canada department is analogous to the US Federal Aviation Administration. TC creates and enforces regulations around airspace, among many other duties. In Canada, there are a couple of different certificates that need to be obtained if you’re flying a drone weighing more than 250 grams.

The first is a Basic Operator’s Certificate. You’ll need one of these if you’re flying a drone weighing more than 250 grams (and less than 25 kilograms) and all of the following requirements are met. The following five points come directly from this Transport Canada page:

  • You fly it in uncontrolled airspace
  • You fly it more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders
  • You never fly it over bystanders
  • You fly it more than 3 nautical miles from a certified airport or a military aerodrome
  • You fly it more than 1 nautical mile from a certified heliport
Transport Canada is very clear about its rules…

To get a Basic RPAS Operator’s Certificate, you’ll only need to pass a fairly simple online test. No Flight Review is required.

Advanced Operations

If your operations don’t meet even one of the five mandatory requirements for Basic Operations listed above, then you are conducting Advanced Operations. That requires that you pass a more complex online examination called the Small Advanced Exam (50 questions, one hour), plus have a Flight Review. If you need help studying, the site lists some RPAS training options on this page, which will be regularly updated.

This Transport Canada infographic helps determine if you’re conducting Basic or Advanced operations…

A Flight Review involves meeting with a Flight Reviewer. They’ll assess the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft, based both on observing some simple flight tasks and asking some questions. (What airspace are you in? Where’s the nearest airport? What’s your procedure if you have a fly-away? Things like that.)

But to set up a Flight Review, you first need to find a Flight Reviewer.

FlightReview.ca

The new website is FlightReview.ca, which bills itself as “Canada’s network for Transport Canada-required Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Flight Reviews.”

The lead aerospace brains behind it belong to Richard Podolski, a commercial aircraft pilot who flies an A330 and has been involved with leading Canadian drone companies for several years as a regulatory expert:

FlightReview.ca is all about making things easier for both pilots seeking Flight Reviews, and Transport Canada-authorized Flight Reviewers seeking lots of reviews without having to pay for marketing. Pilots from anywhere in Canada can sign up on our site for a review, and we’ll pair them up with the closest Flight Reviewer in our network of affiliated schools. It saves a lot of work on both ends.

Richard Podolski, FlightReview.ca
Richard Podolski (C) is an A330 pilot and drone regulatory expert

Costs?

There is no charge for a pilot seeking a review to use this service. If you’re interested in a Flight Review, you can book here.

Flight Reviewers pay a small commission to receive the referral. A number of leading Canadian RPAS ground schools have already signed up. Those interested in becoming part of the network as Flight Reviewers can sign up here.

Increase the odds of passing

One final thing. We’ve seen pilots (and we know some) who, despite passing the online exam, failed the Flight Review. It wasn’t because they weren’t capable of controlling their RPAS. Rather, it was because some questions caught them off guard. FlightReview.ca also offers a one-hour, intensive online session with Richard, where he’ll go over what to expect and ask you some questions representative of what you’re likely to receive during the actual flight review. More info on that here.

Happy flying. And remember, if you’re flying a drone weighing more than 250 grams, it needs to be registered with Transport Canada. It takes about five minutes and costs $5.00 CDN. If you ever wind up in a tricky situation with an unregistered drone, you could be subject to a hefty fine. So seriously, just go do it.

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