International Regulations

United States

Highlights: Recreational or hobby use of a drone is permitted by the FAA with limited restrictions. A Certificate of Authorization or permission from the FAA is required for the commercial use of drones. A Section 333 exemption issued by the FAA can also allow for commercial drone operations. Currently, 28 states are debating the use of drones and how they can be operated within state territories. For commercial interests this essentially means the regulations will continue to adapt and change in the coming years. There are significant differences between journalism usage, property mapping, mining, surveying, and recreational use, for example. Unfortunately, the FAA has been slow in promulgating their regulations, keeping American drone companies except for a handful on hold.

Certification Difficulty: Difficult

Steps to be certified & links: FAA Certificate of Authorization, Section 333 exemption, Know Before You Fly, FAA UAS information, Do’s and Dont’s While Flying, Know Before You Fly Brochure,


Highlights: Drones for commercial use fall under Canadian air space regulations, and are specifically business related if over 35 kg (77.2 lbs) and for profit activities. Special Flight Operations certification is required of a business operation, which has a specific application process, license, usage agreement and monitoring. Those who abuse their certification right can lose it to regulators based on complaints.  If the drone is under 2 kg or between 2.1 kg and 25 kg and used for work or research you must meet the exemption requirements. Click link below for qualification requirements.

Qualification Requirements

Transport Canada (TC) has been providing a defined path to legal commercial drone operations for years under a permitting process called the Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). This is the same regulatory process they use to approve special aviation events like air shows that would otherwise violate Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) (e.g. jets flying lower and faster than normally allowed). Ahead of writing a new set of CARs to integrate what TC calls Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (s) into Canadian airspace, they’ve employed the SFOC process with great efficiency and efficacy to allow for commercial operations to proceed; including applications to conduct commercial R+D (which Amazon is struggling to get approved through the FAA). The SFOC allows regulators to make subjective decisions about aviation safety based on the specifics of the application. If the who, what, where, when, and how are answered in a way that conforms to the current rules of the road, and mitigates the risk to persons and property to near-zero, then the operation is approved.

A drone between 2.1 kg and 25 kg must also give Transport Canada the following information: Contact info, drone model, description of operation, and geo boundaries of operation. If the drone is NOT used for work or research and weighs under 35 kg, you do not need permission but must fly safely. Do not fly within 9 km of any airport, heliport, or aerodome. Do not fly any higher than 90 meters above the ground and do not fly in populated areas or anywhere you my interfere with first responders. If the drone is over 25 kg, you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.
Certification Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Steps to be certified & links: Transport Canada UAV info


Highlights: It is illegal to fly a drone for commercial hire unless you have an unmanned operator’s certificate covering that type of operation; issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.  You cannot fly a drone over 400 feet and must always be in visual line of sight. No night flying and you cannot fly over populous areas. Cannot fly closer than 5.5km from an airfield and cannot fly closer than 30 meters to vehicles, boats, buildings or people.

Australia was the first country in the world to regulate remotely piloted aircraft in 2002.
Certification Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Two ways to get certified.
Steps to be certified & links: Australian Civil Aviation Authority about UAVs, Operations Manual

United Kingdom

Highlights: The CAA has defined Aerial Work as any purpose (other than public transport) for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised in respect of the purpose of the flight and includes the following: Aerial Advertising and Aerial Work and Foreign Registered Aircraft. The U.K. could be comparable to the U.S.’ regulatory view on drones, except that the American version is still in flux. The U.K. regulations are generally treated as usage guidelines by drone owners, and are split on size and purpose. Units that are under 20 kg or 44 lbs only require a basic user flying permit. This authorization limits operations in certain altitudes and locations where the drone can be used.

nits that are over the aforementioned weight limit are specifically required to be authorized with a Permit to Carry out Aerial Work. This authorization has a number of prerequisites, from operator training and certification to design of the unit itself.
Certification Difficulty: Difficult
Steps to be certified & links: CAA UAV Information, Safety Brochure, Application Process, Application for a Foreign Registered Aircraft Permit


Highlights: The lack of clear unmanned aircraft systems regulation in the European Union has stunted development of non-military products, similar to the USA, and as such are not selling or using drones with great frequency. In fact, the opposite has occurred; a lack of rules has essentially made businesses and users hesitant to fly drones for fear of the wrong reaction from authorities.

Links: UAS information , European Aviation Safety Agency

United Nations

Highlights: Most of the U.N. attention on drones has to do with their military use and impact on civilians. However, the U.N. has started finding application of drones useful in peacekeeping operations, which is probably the closest the organization has come to direct use of the vehicles. The Congo has been one of the first zones with the help of Italy in terms of drone provision.  That said, most of the equipment that the U.N. teams get their hands on tends to be military grade and operated by military teams assigned to U.N. operations. So they don’t really count as civilian applications per se.
Links: United Nations UAV information, Article on the UN Use of Drones


Highlights: The French government has laid out seven categories of civil drone use, primarily segmented by vehicle weight. The first group is the smallest at a weight less than 25 kg. These units use very small engines and are barely able to carry any equipment. The next group is anything bigger than the maximum weight of Group A, while Group C involves a connected or tethered drone. The final three groups are differentiated both by heavier weight as well as not being connected or restrained. The last category, Group G, handles vehicles well over 150 kg in weight. Further, within each group the French regulations require specific safety standards to be met as well, and these include anti-crash features to protect people on the ground. Generally, the unit also has to always be in the physical sight of the pilot on the ground and cannot exceed certain altitudes with 150 meters being the highest allowable level of civil operation.
Links: France UAV information, Guidelines

South America

Highlights: South America is ideal for drone use because the region is so big and so much of the land is natural jungle or undeveloped. As a result, it poses significant challenges for mapping, surveying, monitoring and more. An unmanned drone offers businesses and organization an easy, low cost way to achieve their visual goals by air.

Brazil is the only country in South America so far to put out use regulations but they are fairly scant and don’t restrict civilian activities at all. Columbia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru already have usage or are considering it, but for the most part it is the military in these countries that tends to be the main player. The one exception has been archeological projects, which have combined drone use with Lidar work to discover ruins and man-made constructs deep in the jungle or in the landscape not apparent to the human eye.

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