Transport Canada has published its Drone Strategy, which provides the government’s strategic vision for drones, with a focus on raising awareness of the significance of drones, the untapped economic potential of the sector, and the priorities that will drive Transport Canada going forward.
Initiated in 2015, the strategy is the first of its kind for Canada. Canada currently has over 53,000 drones registered alongside almost 37,000 registered traditional aircraft, and more than 51,000 pilot certificates have been issued.
Safety in the airspace over Canada is a responsibility shared by Transport Canada, NAV CANADA, and the Department of National Defense (DND). Together they are focusing on creating a drone traffic management system in Canada that includes mobile drone flight planning and airspace access request systems, communication, navigation, and airspace surveillance systems. The first phase of drone traffic management trials in rural areas will begin later this year, and the entities will be exploring options for the remote identification of drones, which serves as a “digital license plate”, as a foundational part of the drone traffic management system.
Drone capabilities developing quickly at lower costs, easy access to drones, and drone platforms vulnerable to hacking and malicious modification contribute to the security risks posed by drones. The potential for adding dangerous payloads or drones being used for spying is a prevalent concern. Tactics used in conflict zones and other criminal activity could similarly be used for disruption or attack against a nation’s aviation system, critical infrastructure, or the public.
The possibility of drones being used by criminals or terrorists and the potential impact of an attack demonstrate the need for a greater understanding of the security vulnerabilities at Canadian airports and other critical infrastructure. The 2019 Final Report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports called for a national counter-drone program at airports. International partners have recognized this challenge and are moving ahead in assessing the risks and implementing mitigation strategies to address them.
The strategy also notes that cybersecurity is an increasing concern. Transport Canada has been working both nationally and internationally to develop drone cybersecurity practices to counter cyber risks such as drone hacking – a topic of discussion from drone manufacturers and operators, to regulators and security agencies. Transport Canada says a holistic approach to cybersecurity is needed to ensure vulnerabilities are addressed throughout the aviation system.