Getting My Canada Drone Pilot Certificate: License Exam, Resources, Tips

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To legally fly, youll need a drone license in Canada. I got my pilot certificate without additional training or pilot ground school. Heres what I used to pass Transport Canada exam and the resources I used to pass the first time.

drone license canada

drone license canada

Drone rules have changed significantly here in Canada over the past few years. Since June 2019, drone pilots require a drone pilot certificate and to register each drone they fly. Its been said that the Canadian drone rules used to allow everyone to fly almost nowhere. Now they allow almost no one to fly almost everywhere.

Exception: The exception for these rules are drones that weight less than 250 grams. If you dont want to bother with this process, you can pickup the DJI Mini 2 (it weighs a very specific 249 grams). Check it out on Amazon Canada (Amazon.com if youre in the US). I own the Mini 2 and Im loving it. 

Heres the process to pass your exam and get your drone pilot certification.

Table of Contents

Passing the Canada Drone Exam

Last week, I took the exam for my Pilot CertificateBasic Operations. I didnt buy any additional training or courses. Heres what worked for me. 

To help you pass your exam, Ive put together a full set of resources and videos. But before we get to all the specifics, I want to share how it went for me.

In the couple of weeks before taking the exam, I watched dozens of videos about drone rules and restrictions.

If you are taking the exam in Canada, be careful not to confuse Canadian rules with the US (Part 107), UK (Flyer ID), or Australia (RePL). I began watching US-based pilots explain the rulesand while there are similaritiesthe rules are different. 

I found some great videos by Canada-based drone pilots. Many also sell study guides. If you are going to dig in, and binge these educational videos, put the coffee on. While the information is well taught, it is dry and you might find your eyes will get a little heavy. Ill share the videos below.

After watching the pilot videos and then reading the guides by Transport Canada, I took the exam and passed on my first try. I scored 77% (which means I got 27 out of 35). To pass, you must score a minimum of 65%.

The questions I got wrong were the more general aviation questions, which I didnt realize would be part of it. And it took me less than half of the 90 allowed minutes. I even went over all the questions a second time. The exam interface allows you to jump around and change your answers. 

And while I cant share the full copy of my pilot certificate, heres what it looks like:

drone pilot certificate canada

drone pilot certificate canada

How Hard is the Canada Drone Exam?

It was pretty easy. I studied and took my time. Before taking the exam, I never flew a drone before. I hadnt even held one in my hand. I watched a bunch of videos (links below) and read the Transport Canada rules (also linked below). 

But not everyone agrees. This Reddit thread highlights how many found it unnecessarily hard. 

Will you have a hard time? Probably not, especially if you study. But, the drone pilot exam is hard enough that you will fail if you arent prepared. 

Did I Attend a Flight School?

No. Before the exam, I didnt purchase any courses, study guides, or attend a ground school programs. And I passed the Basic Operations exam with no problem.

But before I take the Advanced Operations exam, I am going to purchase a study guide. I dont know what the study guide / ground school offers that isnt available through Transport Canada. But Ill see if it helps. 

Once I pass the next exam, Ill update the post here, along with my thoughts of the study guide I used. Later in this post, youll find a list of some of the more popular drone exam study guides in Canada.

The experience of getting the Basic Operations Certificate was easy and pretty low stress. A few hours of reading and a few more of YouTube videos and now I can fly in Canada.

Should You Attend a Flight School?

Probably. Transport Canada recommends it. Remember, its about more than just fulfilling a legal requirement. Its about getting good at this. The more we knowthe better pilots well be. And the more well enjoy flying drones.

Im going to attend before taking my next exam (Advanced Operations). 

Do I Need to Own a Drone to Take the Exam? 

No, for the Basic Operations certificate, it is purely academic. You dont need to have any practical experience with a drone. You can study and pass. 

But for the Advanced Operations certificate, youll need a drone to complete the certification. You can take the exam without drone experience. But youll need practical experience before you can pass the Flight Review. And youll need to own a drone for this stepyou will fly your own unit during the Flight Review.

Once you get the Basic Operations Certificate, you are legally allowed to begin flying your new drone. This gives you a chance to practice and get a feel for the controls before taking the Flight Review component of the Advanced Operations certification. 

Drone Exam Knowledge Requirements

Here are the specific requirements for flying a drone (RPAS, Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) from 250g to 25 kg. And operating with Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)

  1. Section 1: Air law, air traffic rules and procedures
  2. Section 2: RPAS airframes, power plants, propulsion and systems
  3. Section 3: Human factors
  4. Section 4: Meteorology
  5. Section 5: Navigation
  6. Section 6: Flight operations
  7. Section 7: Theory of flight
  8. Section 8: Radiotelephony 

See all the details from Transport Canada. Or download the PDF of Knowledge Requirements from Transport Canada.

You might be surprised when you take the exam, to find general aviation questions. Some questions might not seem to relate to piloting drones. Transport Canada has made it clear that they want drone pilots to understand more than just the basic rules.

They expect drone pilots to comprehend broader topics things like physical properties of the earths atmosphere, diurnal effects, and characteristics of unstable air. 

Recommended Study Material: Canadas Drone Exam 

Transport Canada publications, including the following, may be purchased from retailers, or at the following website. 

The Study Guide for the Radiotelephone Restricted Operator CertificateAeronautical (RIC-21) is available free of charge from district offices of Industry Canada – Examinations and Radio Licensing.

Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) are available here. 

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NAV CANADA publications, including the following, may be purchased from retailers, or at the following site: 

  • VFR Navigation Charts (VNC)/VFR Terminal Area Charts (VTA)
  • Canada Flight Supplement 

The NAV CANADA VFR Phraseology guide is available for download. 

Information on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods is available from Transport Canada. 

Text books and other publications produced by commercial publishers can be obtained through local flying training organization, bookstores and similar sources.

transport canada drone exam

transport canada drone exam

3 Drone Exams: Basic, Advanced, Flight Reviewer

If you want to fly a drone over 250 grams in weight, youll need to be certified by Transport Canada.

There are three levels of certification.

  1. Basic Operations: Take a 35 question, multiple choice, online exam. Score 65% to pass. You have 90 minutes to take the exam. Subjects covered are described in Standard 921.01
  2. Advanced Operations: Take a 50 question, multiple choice, online exam. Score 80% to pass. You have 60 minutes to take the exam. Subjects covered are described in Standard 921.02
  3. Flight Reviewer: This 30 question exam (90 minutes) is for individuals who want to be certified to administer the Flight Review. This wont be for most people. Subjects covered are described in Standard 921.03 

For advanced operations, youll also need to pass a Flight Review. 

Flight Review: Advanced Operations Certificate

The flight review is like the driving test before getting your drivers license. To be certified for Advanced Operations, you must demonstrate that you can safely operate your drone. This is important because with the Advanced Operations certificate, youll be allowed to fly closer to people. 

Heres what Transport Canada says about drone flight reviews.

Once I take my flight review, Ill share my experience on this post. 

What If I Fail The Exam?

For all three drone pilot exams, you can rewrite the the examination after 24 hours. The $10 fee applies for every attempt. 

Resources for Transport Canada Drone Exam

Don Drones On: Video Series

Here is the video playlist I followed to pass the Basic Operations Drone Pilot Exam. The video series (by Don Drones On) has 14 videos and 8 primary modules. The video playlist is free and available on YouTube.

Don also sells a digital study guide for Basic Operations for $29.99. I didnt use his downloadable study guide.

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Don also produced a 30-video playlist for the Advanced Operations exam. I havent viewed this series yet, but it comes well reviewed and its free.

Don also sells an Advanced Operations exam study guide for $54.99.

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Sugu World: Basic Operations

This basic study guide is just over 50 minutes in a single video. They also produce an advanced operations video course. And on their site, you can purchase study guides, which appear to be Powerpoint slides.

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4 Courses and Schools Offering Study Guides

  1. Mark Cohen

    the Flight Review

    Amazon

    Bryan HainesUnmanned: Textbooks for RPAS Studies, 2nd Edition. This print book covers Transport Canadas rules that are covered in the exams for certification. It includes a practice exam of 100+ questions. See current price on Amazon.ca

  2. Candrone: $200. They offer a Drone Pilot Ground School. This is covers both Basic and Advanced levels. Expect to spend about 8 hours on this course. 
  3. Canadian Drone Institute: $90 Basic / $290 Advanced. They offer a drone course for each level. They suggest spending 20+ hours of study time for the Basic exam and 30+ hours for the advanced exam. It appears that their Advanced course includes the Flight Review. According to their site, they have Flight Reviewers in Nova Scotia (Adrian Fish), New Brunswick (Victor Sparks), Ontario (Mark Cohen). Despite a frustrating site UX, it appears that they know what theyre doing.
  4. Dr Drone: $325. RPAS Ground School Prep. This online course will prepare you for your basic and advanced exams. 

What Drone Am I Getting?

I want a capable drone with an exceptional camera. During my research, I had settled on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, which is now almost 3 years old. And as I researched, I learned that the DJI Mavic 3 is soon to be released, possibly as soon as Q3 of this year.

So I decided to wait for the release of the newest model. The Mavic 2 Pro was released in August 2018so an August release of the Mavic 3 might make sense.

In the meantime, I bought the DJI Mini 2. It was released last fall and is decent in both flight and videography. I plan to develop my skills and be ready for the new Mavic 3 when it is released. I also ordered some ND filters which should be here later this week. 

Because drones are going to become a central part of our business, we wanted two. So both Dena and I can both fly, and to have a spare when were on assignment. 

drone exam canada

drone exam canada

Hungry for more? Check out our Drone Pilot Glossary

Your Turn

How are your preparations coming for the Canadian drone exam? Which level are you working on? I would love to hear your experienceand the resources that youre using.

Don

GoPro

Bryan Haines is co-founder and blogger on ClickLikeThis. We cover action cameras and outdoor photography with a focus on GoPro cameras. He is a travel blogger at Storyteller.Travel and co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.

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Getting My Canada Drone Pilot Certificate: License Exam, Resources, Tips