Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, or as they are more commonly known drones, are becoming more popular and a more common sight in the Canadian skies. While drones were first developed for military use, they have since been adopted by businesses and the public alike thanks to lower costs and technological advances.

These versatile devices are now available in many sizes, shapes, and budgets. They are introducing exciting new opportunities for commercial operators as well as everyday consumers. The drone industry is an industry with a lot of potential for growth and in this article, we have collated key statistics about the industry and drone ownership together with information on how to fly a drone in Canada legally and safely.

Drone Industry and Ownership Statistics for Canadians

  • Canada has over 1,000 companies operating within the drone industry.
  • Revenue from the drone market in Canada is expected to amount to CA$60.6 million in 2024.
  • DJI generates almost ¾ of the drone market revenue in Canada.
  • The average price for drones in Canada was CA$610 in 2023.
  • The market size of the drone package delivery system is expected to reach over CA$ 2,000 million by 2030.
  • Canada has nearly 200 drone startups.
  • Canada has over 337,000 drones.
  • Transport of Canada has registered over 53,000 drones to date.
  • The number of SFOCs grew by over 700% in just three years.
  • Drones heavier than 250 grams need to be registered and require a drone pilot licence.
  • An individual caught breaking the drone flying laws could be fined up to $3,000 and a corporation up to $15,000.

Overview of the Drone Industry in Canada

The Canadian drone industry is booming. In Canada, drones are used for a variety of purposes including aerial photography, search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, and hazardous material detection. With drone technology becoming more advanced all the time and cheaper prices making them more accessible to more Canadians, drones are only going to get more commonplace.

Globally, Canada is one of the leaders in developing drone technology with the Canadian drone industry covering everything from research and development to manufacturing. Major droner companies such as Skyward, Aeryon Labs, and Walkera all have headquarters in Canada.

Canada has over 1,000 companies that operate within the drone industry, employing over 22,000 Canadian employees. The fact that 44% of these companies were founded less than five years ago, shows how quickly the industry is growing. 70% of the companies are based in three provinces: Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Drone Market Revenue Expected to Fall in Canada in 2024

According to Statista, in 2024, the drone market revenue will fall slightly in Canada. The revenue in 2023 was CA$61.4 million and in 2024 it is expected to be CA$60.6 million. In comparison, the two largest markets for drones are China and the US where the revenues are expected to reach CA$2,056 million and CA$1,886 million in 2024, respectively.

One Brand Dominates almost 3/4 of the Canadian Drone Market

The Canadian drone market is clearly dominated by one brand, DJI, according to Statista. In 2023, 74% of the revenue was generated by DJI with the next biggest brand, Carrera, only representing 6% of the revenue. Yuneec had 5% of the revenue, Parrot 4%, and Autel and Holy Stone both had 2% of the revenue. The remaining 7% of the revenue was divided among smaller companies.

Drone Startups in Canada

There are almost 200 drone startups in Canada. Examples of drone startups include:

  • Wingcopter, founded in 2014 and based in Vancouver, Wingcopter produces and creates eVTOL delivery drones. Its investors include ITOCHU and the European Investment Bank.
  • Iris Automation, also based in Vancouver, the company was founded in 2015 and creates drone collision avoidance systems. Investors of Iris Automation include GGV Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners.
  • Flash Forest was founded in 2019 and is based in Toronto. Its investors include Sustainable Development Technology Canada and OurCrowd and it focuses on drone-based reforestation and wildlife conservation solutions.
  • Draganfly manufactures quadcopter drones. It is located in Saskatoon and was founded in 1998. Draganfly’s investors include Globalive Capital and, SS Investment Group.
  • Aeryon Labs, which was founded in 2007 provides drones for aerial intelligence and HD imagery operations. The company’s investors include Summit Partners and FedDev Ontario. It is located in Waterloo.

Drone Prices Are Expected to Keep Falling

For several years now, the prices of drones have been falling and this trend is set to continue according to Statista. In 2018, the average price per unit was CA$720. By 2020, the average unit price had fallen to CA$660 and by 2023 to CA$610. It is predicted that by 2028, the average drone will cost CA$580 in Canada.

The Use of Drones to Deliver Packages Is Growing Rapidly

One of the most common uses of drones in commerce is to deliver packages. In 2022, the market size of the drone package delivery system in Canada was CA$157.9 million. It is estimated that by 2030, the market size will reach CA$2,259 million.

Other Commercial Use of Drones in Canada

Aside from companies using drones to deliver packages, other industries in Canada have also been quick to realise the potential of drones. In agriculture, drones can be used to analyse the health of crops, scout for harmful pests, and measure where fertilisers or pesticides are needed. Drones have also been employed as “flying sheepdogs” to monitor livestock.

Within the energy sector, drones are being used to inspect pipelines and powerlines in hard-to-access terrain. These inspections can reduce the need to place staff in hazardous conditions or expensive shutdowns. Meanwhile, in mining, drones with thermal sensors are being used to identify types of soil and vegetation that may indicate the presence of precious metals underground.

Drone Ownership in Canada

Recent figures show that there are over 337,000 drones in Canada and the number is only going to get higher. The majority of drones in Canada, around 74%, are used for recreational purposes. The remaining 26% of drones are used by the military and commerce. It is estimated that the Canadian commercial drone market will increase by over 17% by 2027.

Transport Canada Has Registered over 53,000 Drones

According to Transport Canada, there are over 53,000 registered drones in Canada. Of course, this is just a fraction of the drones in Canada because most drones used by private persons do not have to be registered. The Transport of Canada has issued over 51,000 drone pilot licenses. You will find details about drone registration and licences a little further at the end of the article.

Drones Weighing Over 35 kg Require a Special Certificate

Drones that are heavier than 35 kg are classified as Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). Regardless of their use, these drones require a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) that must be obtained before they can be flown. This is to ensure the safe operation of UAVs. SFOCs are available from Transport Canada.

The growth in the number of SFOCs issued has been extremely rapid. In 2010, there were no SFOCs issued. In 2012, Transport Canada issued 345 licenses and in 2015, the number grew to 2,480. This represents an increase of 719% in just three years.

Rules and Regulations on Flying Drones in Canada

Drones are regulated under the Canadian Aviation Regulations and all drone pilots must adhere to the rules. If you have a drone that weighs more than 250 grams, the drone needs to be registered and you will need a drone pilot certificate to fly it in Canada. Drones weighing less than 250 grams are exempt from this rule.

Drone pilot certificates are issued by Transport Canada. Drone licences can only be obtained by people who are at least 14 years old. 14- and 15-year-olds can get a basic drone licence. Anyone aged 16 or over can apply for an advanced licence. Children under 14 years of age must be supervised by a person with a drone pilot’s licence.

When you are flying your drone, always keep it in sight and only fly it at night if it has lights. Do not fly your drone above 122 metres (400 feet) and keep it away from bystanders, emergency operations, and any advertised events. You cannot fly a drone within 5.6 kilometres of airports or 1.9 kilometres of heliports.

Penalties

Anyone caught flying a drone heavier than 250 grams without a licence or registration, can be fined or even face jail time. The fine is up to $1,000 for individuals for flying without a licence, flying an unregistered drone, or flying in areas where drones are not allowed. For putting people or other aircraft at risk, the fine is up to $3,000.

Corporations face higher fines. For flying without a licence, flying an unregistered drone, or flying in areas where drones are not allowed the fine is up to $5,000, while it is up to $15,000 for putting people or other aircraft at risk.

Brief Overview of the Global Drone Industry

Globally, based on combined statistics from 181 countries, the drone market is expected to reach US$54.6 million (approximately 73.5 million in Canadian dollars) by 2030. This is based on a 7.1% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). The commercial sector will be the main driver of this growth at 7.7% CAGR while the recreational sector will decrease slightly at -0.3% CAGR.

The global drone market is led by Asia, in particular China and Japan, while the Middle East and Africa will see the fastest growth. The CAGR for the Middle East and Africa is projected to be 15.4%

The biggest segment of the drone industry is drone services, which represented 80% of the market in 2023. However, the hardware segment, including drone platforms, systems, and components manufacturing, will experience the fastest growth with a CAGR of 9.3%.

Globally, the industries that use drones the most are energy, cargo, and courier services. The global energy sector uses drones in several applications such as assessing and maintaining structures. The biggest growth, at 15.7% CAGR will be within the cargo and courier services with companies such as Amazon and Walmart leading the way. However, smaller companies are likely to be quick to follow.

Conclusion

Drones are capable of transforming our society in a variety of ways, from the way we work to the way we live. They can change the way industries operate because they can be used, for example, to access hard-to-reach areas and perform dangerous tasks. Canada has an innovative, emerging drone sector that is developing ways to respond to the increasing demand for drone technology.

While drones have many advantages, they can also be a safety hazard if not used correctly. To ensure drones are used safely, all individuals and corporations must adhere to the rules set in the Canadian Aviation Regulations and may need to obtain a license or a special certificate from Transport Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

The prices of drones have been falling in Canada year by year. The average price of a drone was CA$610 in 2023.

Drones weighing less than 250 grams can be flown without a drone pilot licence or registering the device. Children should always use drones under adult supervision. Drones that weigh more than 250 grams need to be registered and anyone operating the drone needs to obtain a drone pilot licence.

The drone market revenue was CA$61.4 million in 2023. In 2024 it is expected to be CA$60.6 million, showing a slight decrease.

Anyone can fly a drone in Canada but all drone owners must adhere to certain rules regarding drones. Depending on the size of the drone, you may also need to obtain a drone pilot certificate before you can fly it. Drones weighing over 35 kg will require a special certificate. Both certificates are issued by Transport Canada.

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