Knowing and understanding the rules and regulations for aerial photo missions is an important part of our business, and we want both our clients and the general public to know the correct procedures for the safety of our photographers, pilots and any individuals whom may be around the sites which we are shooting.  This post is made to help make clear a few of the regulations which come up in our day to day business.  This post is in regards to aerial photography done with Airplanes and Helicopters.  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) such as drones are a whole different ballgame, and you can follow this link to our post about UAV Aerial Photography.

 

All of the “rules of the air” have been laid out by Transport Canada in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), and are available online on the Transport Canada website (http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/acts-regulations/regulations-sor96-433.htm).  These rules have been created for the safety of everyone involved in aviation, and in many cases stem from specific aviation accidents which could have otherwise been avoided if the proper procedures were in place.

 

One of the most common requests we receive from our clients is to photograph “low altitude” overviews of buildings, equipment, structures, homes, or other built-up areas.  These scenarios can be particularly hazardous as the margins for safety generally get lower the closer you are to the ground.  It’s important to have a clear plan prior to take-off, and in many cases we recommend notifying people on the ground around any site where low level flight will be taking place to ensure there is a clear understanding to remain clear of the area which you are operating.  The following are the rules laid out by Transport Canada from the CARs for flight over built-up areas:

 

 

Minimum Altitudes and Distances – CARs 602.14

 

 Except where conducting a take-off, approach or landing or where permitted under section 602.15, no person shall operate an aircraft:

 

(a) over a built-up area or over an open-air assembly of persons unless the aircraft is operated at an altitude from which, in the event of an emergency necessitating an immediate landing, it would be possible to land the aircraft without creating a hazard to persons or property on the surface, and, in any case, at an altitude that is not lower than

 

(i) for aeroplanes, 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle located within a horizontal distance of 2,000 feet from the aeroplane,

(ii) for balloons, 500 feet above the highest obstacle located within a horizontal distance of 500 feet from the balloon, or

(iii) for an aircraft other than an aeroplane or a balloon, 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle located within a horizontal distance of 500 feet from the aircraft; and

 

(b) in circumstances other than those referred to in paragraph (a), at a distance less than 500 feet from any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.

 

 

Permissible Low Altitude Flight – CARs 602.15

 (1) A person may operate an aircraft at altitudes and distances less than those specified in subsection 602.14(2) where the aircraft is operated at altitudes and distances that are no less than necessary for the purposes of the operation in which the aircraft is engaged, the aircraft is operated without creating a hazard to persons or property on the surface and the aircraft is operated

 

(a) for the purpose of a police operation that is conducted in the service of a police authority;

(b) for the purpose of saving human life;

(c) for fire-fighting or air ambulance operations;

(d) for the purpose of the administration of the Fisheries Act or the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act

(e) for the purpose of the administration of the national or provincial parks; or

(f) for the purpose of flight inspection.

 

(2) A person may operate an aircraft, to the extent necessary for the purpose of the operation in which the aircraft is engaged, at altitudes and distances less than those set out in

 

(a) paragraph 602.14(2)(a), where operation of the aircraft is authorized under Subpart 3 or section 702.22; or

(b) paragraph 602.14(2)(b), where the aircraft is operated without creating a hazard to persons or property on the surface and the aircraft is operated for the purpose of

 

(i) aerial application or aerial inspection,

(ii) aerial photography conducted by the holder of an air operator certificate,

(iii) helicopter external load operations, or

(iv) flight training conducted by or under the supervision of a qualified flight instructor.

 

 

Our team takes every available precaution to ensure we operate in a safe and responsible manner when we’re completing our missions.  In some cases, issuance of a Special Flight Operations Certificate may be needed to carry out a flight.  CARs Part IV 623.65 outline the necessary requirements to obtain such a certificate.

 

Special Flight Operations Certificate

623.65(b) and (c) Minimum Altitudes and Distances

(1) The following standards apply to the application for and the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of conducting aerial application, aerial inspection, aerial photography or helicopter class B, C, or D external load operations at altitudes and distances less than those set out in CAR 602.14(2)(a) and CAR(16)(2).

 

(2) An application shall be received by the appropriate Regional Transport Canada General Aviation Office, at least 10 working days prior to the date of the proposed operation, or by a date mutually agreed upon between the applicant and Transport Canada.

 

(3) The following constitutes an application for a Special Flight Operations Certificate for the purpose of operations in paragraph (1) above:

 

(a) the name, address, and where applicable, the telephone number and facsimile number of the applicant;

(b) the name, address, and where applicable the telephone number and facsimile number of the person designated by the applicant to have operational control over the operation (Operation Manager);

(c) method by which the Operation Manager may be contacted directly during operation by those involved in the operation;

(d) the type and purpose of the operation;

(e) the dates, alternate dates and times of the proposed operation;

(f) certification that the landowner(s) has/have granted their permission for the proposed operation;

(g) certification that the governing municipality has been informed of the proposed operation and has no objection;

(h) the type(s) and registration(s) of all aircraft involved in the operation;

(i) the names and pilot licence numbers of all the pilots involved in the operation;

(j) for proposed pilots that hold licences not issued by the Minister, copies of their licences and medical certificates;

(k) the security plan for the area(s) of operation and security plan for the area(s) to be overflown to ensure no hazard is created to persons or property on the surface;

(l) the emergency contingency plan to deal with any disaster resulting from the operation;

(m) the name, address, and where applicable the telephone and facsimile numbers of the person designated to be responsible for supervision of the operation area (Ground Supervisor), if different from the Operation Manager during the operation;

(n) the method by which the Ground Supervisor shall communicate with the pilot-in-command of aircraft participating in the operation;

(o) a clear, legible presentation of the area to be used during the operation. The presentation may be in the form of a scale diagram, aerial photograph or large scale topographical chart and must include at least the following information:

(i) the altitudes and routes to be used on the approach and departure to and from the area where the operation will be carried out;

(ii) the location and height above ground of all obstacles in the approach and departure path to the areas where the operation will be carried out;

(iii) the exact boundaries of the area where the actual operation will be carried out;

(iv) the altitudes and routes to be used while carrying out the operation; and

(q) any other information required by the Minister to ensure the operation may be carried out in a safe manner.

 

We also occasionally run into issues with different types of airspace.  For example restricted airspaces can be found around military bases, special events, or time-limited restrictions for parachute drops, paragliding, or gliding activities.  Providing Air Traffic Control (ATC) with advance detailed descriptions (and maps) of our work area and altitudes to help minimize any delays.  Due diligence must be taken prior to any flight to ensure you’re aware of any restrictions in the area.

 

International Airports can also be challenging as aerial photography work is considered low-priority to Air Traffic Controllers compared to inbound/outbound flights.  There are no actual limits with activities in the vicinity of airports with the exception of ATC instructions (and the same rules for built-up areas listed in the CARs above), but it’s imperative to properly communicate with ATC and safely maintain your distance from other aircraft and operating areas.  Helicopters are much more maneuverable in these situations, and for any work close to airports we recommend their use over airplanes.

 

With the right knowledge and planning every aerial photography mission can be accomplished safely and successfully.  Our team at Peak Aerials will guide you through every step of the way.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

We will be posting more in the coming weeks regarding commercial low altitude UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) photography, as well as the rules and requirements to shoot in Provincial and National Parks.  In the mean time we hope this helped answer a few of your questions!