Transport Canada Exemption FAQ

What does having an exemption mean?

Transport Canada is not holding MAAC Members to the same restrictions or requirements as non-member RPAS Operators as long as we comply with the 15 conditions listed on The Exemption. For the most part, this generally allows MAAC members to fly as we traditionally have, following the MAAC safety code and looking to MAAC Guidelines for best practices. There are responsibilities, as there always have been, to know the class of airspace in which you intend to fly. It also means that members are expected to self-regulate and comply with the conditions of the Exemption. Ultimately, MAAC must continue to be seen as a trustworthy, mature, safety-conscious organization capable of self-governance and individually motivated rule compliance.

Why did MAAC get an Exemption?

MAAC had been engaged with Transport Canada for a long time before the new Part IX regulations came into force and worked hard to get our members one of the best agreements in the world. Fundamentally, Transport Canada reviewed MAAC’s operations and believed the Exemption plus the MAAC Safety Code form an “equivalence” to CAR Part IX in terms of public and aviation safety and saw MAAC as a trustworthy, mature and safety-conscious organization capable of self-governance and individually motivated rule compliance.

Is there a defining principle to The Exemption?

There should be no circumstance where models and full-size aircraft cross paths, and it is the member’s responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Beyond that, MAAC Members can enjoy our hobby according to MAAC rules. However, it is also MAAC’s responsibility to continually review member and club behaviour and ensure our rules and policies provide the best guidance for safe operations.

Do I need a basic RPAS operator license from Transport Canada?

No. However, MAAC members must be in good standing and demonstrate the knowledge and competence required by the MAAC Safety Code to operate their RPAS.

Do I need to register my models with Transport Canada?

No. However, Exemption condition 11 requires MAAC RPAS to be marked with your MAAC number so that the owner can be identified. The MAAC Safety code has more details and a suggested format. MAAC is also required to provide Transport Canada with an annual total number of ‘intended airworthy MAAC RPAS,’ so please estimate the number of RPAS you intend to fly each year by adjusting the number in your member profile online.

Did The Exemption conditions result in MAAC being restricted to a maximum altitude?

No. The Exemption does not restrict MAAC members to a specified single maximum altitude. However, MAAC is not allowed to permit any MAAC RPAS operation in or entering controlled or restricted airspace without permission from the controlling agency.

To mitigate the risk of members inadvertently entering controlled airspace, MAAC created a requirement for an airspace review and approval if MAAC members wanted to fly higher than 700 feet above ground level. This was based on the knowledge that 700’ is a common starting point for controlled airspace across the country.

Remember that a waiver authorizing operation above 700’ does not mean it is always safe to do so. It is always the individual member’s responsibility to ensure operations are carried out safely. Each member is responsible for taking reasonable steps to determine how to avoid flight above 700’ or the approved altitude (telemetry etc.).

What other changes happened at MAAC because of Exemption conditions or Part IX rules?

One of the conditions of The Exemption very intentionally stipulates that every person who operates an RPAS under the MAAC umbrella must be a MAAC member in good standing.

The result is that any non-Canadian must join MAAC, and be a member in good standing, to legally operate an RPAS under the MAAC Exemption in Canadian airspace.

MAAC leadership has created a temporary foreign membership that eases this regulatory burden on visiting modellers as best as we can. Without this provision, it would be extremely difficult for foreign visitors to fly RPAS in Canada legally.

Do I now need to belong to a MAAC Club?

No. But being a member of a club has benefits that include being a part of a group of like-minded people and having an existing structure and safety culture. MAAC members who operate RPAS but do not belong to a club have the added responsibility to make sure they fully comply with all conditions of The Exemption and MAAC’s Safety Code, such as site surveys for their personal flying site.

Can I fly RPAS at locations other than a MAAC club field?

Yes, but it is your responsibility to fully comply with all conditions of The Exemption and MAAC’s Safety Code, such as site surveys for personal flying sites. MAAC has developed the MAACpro version of the RPAS WILCO app to assist you in determining the location and type of airspace in which you operate. You also need permission from the landowner.

Do I need to apply for a field sanction for my property or a neighbour's field as a MAAC flying site?

No, but a MAAC sanction for your personal flying site can extend insurance coverage to the landowner.

Can I start my own club? On my own property?

Yes, but MAAC Policy doesn’t recognize/charter a club of one person – three is the minimum. But if you regularly fly with a small group, then there are benefits to forming a club, and your Zone Director can help you with that process.

Can I still fly my glider above 700’?

Yes, as long as you obtain an altitude waiver from MAAC, follow the MAAC Safety Code, and are conscious of the class of airspace in which you fly. No MAAC RPAS are permitted to enter controlled airspace without permission, including individual members flying gliders. Members operating gliders for a prolonged time at higher altitudes should take additional safety measures to identify and avoid full-size aircraft.

Can I still launch my model rockets above the 700’?

Yes, as long as you follow the MAAC Safety Code and MAAC Guidelines for best practices.

Free-flight rockets are unaffected by The Exemption and do not require permission to be launched in controlled airspace.

Can I still fly Free Flight models above 700’?

Yes, however, this part of our hobby is under review. While The Exemption does not explicitly apply to true free-flight model aircraft, its purpose is to ensure full-scale aviation and public safety. If there were to be a reported close call or accident between a large MAAC operated free flight model aircraft and a full-scale aircraft, especially in controlled airspace, the consequences to all of MAAC could be devastating.

Members operating free-flight aircraft weighing more than 250 grams would be wise to avoid any operation inside controlled airspace until MAAC formalizes an agreement with NAV CANADA.

Do I need to complete a MAAC Wings Program?

No. While MAAC offers a range of Wings programs for training, those programs have nothing to do with complying with the Exemption conditions and cannot be used instead of the MAAC competency provisions. Each club still has the ability to set their own training and qualifications for minimum proficiency for their flying site – but not for basic competency.

When does The Exemption expire?

The Exemption doesn’t expire, but should we prove to be more of a hazard than expected, Transport Canada may revisit it at any time. If we continue to fly safely and responsibly, there is no reason to expect the Exemption to be withdrawn.

If I accidentally don’t meet the conditions of the exemption, is it revoked for everyone?

No, but if you don’t meet the MAAC required conditions you could be subject to MAAC discipline up to removal of membership. Transport Canada has also confirmed you could be subject to the normal Part IX regulations and potential penalties of up to $3,000 for members and up to $15,000 for MAAC officials, including event directors, for each occurrence.

I’ve been flying model airplanes of all kinds safely for over 35 years – why should I care about this overly complex and restrictive “Exemption” stuff? Why can’t I do what I always did at my Club?

The Government of Canada enacted stringent laws to control what was rapidly becoming unsafe operation of drones, and model aviation enthusiasts got caught in the same net. On that day, MAAC members who fly RC became federally regulated aviators. The MAAC Transport Canada Advisory Group lobbied hard to preserve our hobby, and the result is MAAC’s exclusive Exemption from those much stricter regulations.

The Exemption is not ‘do as we always did.’ It contains 15 conditions the members and leaders of MAAC must ensure we all abide by. This requires your active compliance to be successful. Loss of the exemption would likely be the end of MAAC, organized RC Clubs, and the hobby as we know it.

Tell me the bare minimum I need to do; what do I need to change to be “exemption compliant”?

All MAAC members must follow the MAAC Safety codes that apply to their activities and keep up to date with any changes that have been made.

How does The Exemption compare to regulations in other countries?

The regulatory landscape is constantly changing around the globe, but we know that MAAC has one of the most favourable agreements for modellers in the world. Just south of the border, AMA modellers are restricted to below 400’ and only at specific locations are allowed to operate higher than that. They can apply for higher altitude operations, but that involves an approval process that is complex and time-consuming.

Do I need a spotter when I fly?

No, but if you are flying a high-speed aircraft (jets, rockets or pylon racing type aircraft for example) or if you are flying over 700 feet it is highly recommended that a spotter be used to look for encroaching full-size aircraft. There may be other instances where use of a spotter may be advisable – always err on the side of safety. Don’t forget it is your responsibility to search for and avoid full size aircraft.