UAV FAQs

The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions the City receives about its UAV program.

What is a UAV?

Aircraft without a pilot on board goes by many names—unmanned air vehicle (UAV), remotely piloted aircraft system, model aircraft, remote control aircraft, and drone.

Why did St. Albert purchase a UAV?

The City purchased a small unmanned air vehicle (UAV), also known as a drone, as a cost-effective way to take aerial photos of St. Albert for marketing and surveying purposes. In previous years, videographer and helicopter pilots were hired at significantly higher costs to obtain data. Now, this UAV will pay for itself with just one successful flight and provides staff with greater control and flexibility in obtaining aerial photos throughout the year.

How will the City use the UAV?

The City will use the UAV primarily to obtain aerial photos and videos of developing lands. Possible future uses include (but are not limited to) road condition monitoring, traffic accident analysis, and surveying/mapping.

What does St. Albert’s UAV look and sound like?

The City’s purchased a DJI Phantom Vision 2+ UAV. It has an attached 1080p (pixel) camera taking photos at 60fps (frames per second). The camera in the UAV is similar in capability to the camera in the average modern smartphone. The UAV camera does not have thermal imaging and zoom functions.

The UAV makes a modest amount of noise (like a swarm of bees) on take-off and landing, but should not bother residents as it must stay at least 30 metres (100 feet) from people and roads at all times.

What does the City need to do to fly the UAV legally in St. Albert?

All UAVs used by organizations in Canada require a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC), which must be obtained from Transport Canada in advance of any flight. The City must also file a NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) and receive approval from Nav Canada, before any advertising.

When applying for each SFOC, the City must identify all aspects of that specific flight, including how it will be operated safely and how the staff is working with other aviation operators.

What safety guidelines does Transport Canada have for UAVs?

In Canada, you must:

  1. Follow the rules set out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
  2. Respect the Criminal Code as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws related to trespassing and privacy

Transport Canada expects you to follow these basic Do’s and Don’ts

How does Transport Canada enforce the regulations?

Transport Canada regulates the use of all aircraft, manned and unmanned, to keep the public and the airspace safe.

If an incident is reported to the department, one of the inspectors will verify that the operator followed the rules and used the aircraft safely. Local police may also verify if other laws were broken, including the Criminal Code and privacy laws. If an operator is flying an aircraft for recreational purposes, it’s illegal to do anything that puts aviation safety at risk. The courts would decide on the penalty.

What training did City staff receive to fly these UAVs?

Safety comes first when operating the UAV within St. Albert. The City’s operators have been trained by Elevated Robotic Systems, and Canadian Unmanned Incorporated, and follow strict guidelines for safe operation of the UAV. Training included:

  • aerodynamics
  • air law and regulations
  • communications
  • weather and basic UAS 101, and
  • aviation charts and flight supplements.

Following the classroom sessions, staff received field training that included radio communication, safety checks, recordkeeping and automated flight programming. 

Where will the City by flying?

The City’s application allows us to fly within St. Albert and Sturgeon County, while exercising caution as we are within five nautical miles (9 km) from Sturgeon Community Hospital Heliport. 

Will you be able to see into my backyard?

The City values the right to privacy for its residents. The main purpose of the UAV is to take broad aerial footage of St. Albert, in order to develop marketing materials for investors. Transport Canada will be approving all flights plans which will include specifics around the height of the flight between 30 and 122 metres (100 and 400 feet), as well as the proximity to people, structures, animals, vehicles at least 30 metres (100 feet). While the UAV will have a 1080p camera attached to it, it will not have a zoom lens and minimal individual detail will be able to be obtained. All footage will be reviewed to ensure the privacy of residents and the public is protected and no personal information regarding identifiable individuals is released to the public (in compliance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA, 2000). 

When will flights begin?

Flights will begin in early 2016.

How will the City notify the public about upcoming flights?

The City must file a NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) and receive approval from NAV Canada, before any flight.

The City has developed a procedure for advertising approved flight plans to ensure consistency and transparency of upcoming flights and provide residents with the knowledge of where to find information should they be interested.

Once approved, the City will post the following information on its UAV main webpage:

The City will maintain a Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate in good standing at all times.

  • Purpose of flight
  • Date and time of flight
  • Operating Area
  • Contact information for the City for this particular flight

Please note: There are only twenty minutes of battery life on the UAV which means flight time could be anywhere from one to twenty minutes.

As approval for flights may come 24 to 48 hours before the actual flight, the City is using the most effective and broad-based tools to communicate to the public within this tight time frame. Flight plan information will be advertised to the public the following ways:

  1. Visit the Unmanned Air Vehicle page on this website
  2. Social media posts will go out via City and Economic Development Facebook and Twitter channels
  3. Citylights will also be used; however, it may not provide specific flight information. Instead, it will direct people to the website so they can become familiar with where to look for upcoming flight schedules
  4. Signs will also be posted outdoors in the area of the flight path if near a residential area
  5. For complete details, please visit Advertising Procedures for Approved Flight Plans

Related Pages

Last edited: April 19, 2021