A Comprehensive Guide to Drone Photography in Toronto: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published September 1, 2022

aerial of downtown toronto

There’s no question that drones are becoming a vital tool for many industries.

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In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about drone photography in Toronto.

First, we’ll go over the basics of drone photography and explain how it works.

Then we’ll talk about the different types of drone photography that are possible.

Finally, we’ll go over some of the regulations governing drone operations in Canada.

So whether you’re new to drones or an experienced business owner or looking to fly your own drones, this guide should have something for you!

What is Drone Photography and How Does it Work?

Drone photography is the taking of photographs or videos using a drone. The images or videos are captured from a perspective that wouldn’t be possible with traditional photography or videography. This makes it a great tool for capturing unique and interesting footage or photos.

Drones are equipped with cameras that allow them to take high-quality photos and videos. The type of camera will depend on the drone model, but many drones come with high resolution.

To take photos or videos with a drone, you’ll need to operate the drone using a remote control. This can be done using a smartphone, tablet, or even a dedicated remote control. Once you’re in the air, you can use the drone’s camera to take photos or videos.

Many drones also come with features that make it easier to take great photos and videos. For example, some drones have automatic flight modes that allow you to set up the perfect shot without having to worry about flying the drone yourself.

Types of Drone Photography

There are many different types of drone photography, and the type you choose will depend on your needs. Here are some of the most popular types of drone photography:

Aerial photography

Aerial photography is used to take photos or videos from a high-up perspective, such as from a bird’s eye view. This can be used for all sorts of purposes, such as taking landscape photos, getting a unique perspective on a cityscape, or even capturing footage of events like weddings or concerts.

Aerial Mapping

Aerial mapping is a type of drone photography that’s used to create maps. This can be done by taking photos or videos of an area and then stitching them together to create a detailed map. Aerial mapping is often used for things like surveying land, planning construction projects, or even search and rescue operations.

Infrared photography

Infrared photography is used to take photos or videos using an infrared camera. This allows you to see things that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye, such as heat signatures. Infrared photography is often used for things like detecting leaks, observing wildlife, or even security applications.

Thermal imaging

Thermal imaging is similar to infrared, but it uses a thermal camera to take photos or videos. This allows you to see the temperature of objects, which can be useful for things like detecting fires, finding hot spots in electrical equipment, or even monitoring crop health.

How Drone Photography Can Benefit your Business

Drone photography can benefit your business in many ways. Firstly, it can be used to capture amazing aerial photos and videos of your business or products. This can be used for marketing or promotional purposes, or even for creating a company overview video.

Additionally, drone photography can be used to document events or projects that your business is involved in. This can be used to create a lasting record of the event or project, which can be used for marketing or promotional purposes later on.

Finally, drone photography can also be used to inspect property or infrastructure. This can help you identify damage or issues that need to be addressed.

Agriculture drone photography
Agriculture shot with drone

Industries that Drone Photography is Used In

Aerial photography is used in a variety of industries for many different purposes. Some of the most popular uses for aerial images include commercial real estate, event planning, construction, infrastructure, environmental monitoring, search and rescue, and more.

Architecture

Drones are used to give unique perspectives of buildings and built structures. They can fly lower than conventional airplanes and are drastically cheaper to operate.

Drones also benefit architectural photography because they can fly above obstructions that might block the view of the project. Drones can get great images in crowded urban environments because than can go where humans often can’t.

Real Estate

Real estate is one of the most popular industries for aerial photography. Drones allow real estate agents to take photos and videos of properties from all angles.

Event Planning

Event planning is another industry that often uses drone photography. This can be used to capture photos or videos of weddings, concerts, festivals, and more. Drones allow event planners to get a unique perspective on their events.

Construction

Construction is another industry that can benefit from drone photography. This can be used to inspect property or infrastructure, identify damage or issues that need to be addressed, and document the progress of construction projects and construction sites.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is also often inspected with drones. This can help businesses identify damage or issues with their infrastructure, and make sure that it is in good condition.

Film Industry

The film industry is another area where drones are often used. This can be used to capture aerial shots for movies, TV shows, and commercials. Drones give filmmakers a unique perspective that can make their projects more visually interesting.

Agriculture

Drones are also used in the agriculture industry for a variety of purposes. They can be used to inspect crops, identify problems with irrigation or pests, and even spread fertilizer or pesticides. Drones can help farmers save time and money, and improve the quality of their crops.

Mapping

Drones are also employed for mapping. This may be used to generate maps of large regions, such as forests or mountains.

Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring is another common use for drones. Aerial services can be used to monitor environmental conditions, such as air quality or water quality.

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue is another important use of drone imagery. This can be used to find missing people or animals, and help them get to safety.

Policing

Drones are also used by police and other law enforcement agencies. This can be used for surveillance, crowd control, and emergency response.

Construction drone photography
A large number of construction companies utilize drones

Types of Drone Licenses in Canada

There are two different types of drone licenses in Canada. They are:

Basic Drone License

The basic license is for people who want to fly drones for fun. With this license, you are allowed to fly drones that weigh less than 35 kg and are not used for commercial purposes.

Advanced Drone License

The advanced license is for people who want to fly drones for commercial purposes. With this license, you are allowed to fly drones that weigh more than 35 kg. You will also need to pass a written exam to get this license.

Regulations Governing Drone Photography in Canada

Transport Canada has a comprehensive outline of drone regulations found here. This portion is taken directly from the Transport Canada Website:

Who can fly

You need a drone pilot license to fly drones that weigh 250 grams (g) up to and including 25 kilograms (kg).

You need to be 14 years old to get a basic license and 16 years old to get an advanced license. Children younger than 14 must be supervised by someone with a license. This includes clubs, camps, and other youth groups.

Before you fly

  1. Understand your legal requirements when flying drones
  2. Understand the difference between basic operations and advanced operations
  3. Get the necessary knowledge requirements
  4. Get a drone pilot certificate
  5. Choose the right drone if you want to perform advanced operations
  6. Register your drone
  7. Follow your drone manufacturer’s instructions
  8. Survey the area where you will fly
  • Take note of any obstacles, such as buildings and power lines
  1. Advanced operations only – to operate in controlled airspace (Classes C, D or E) you need to ask NAV CANADA for an RPAS Flight Authorization

While flying

To keep yourself and others safe, fly your drone:

  • where you can see it at all times
  • below 122 meters (400 feet) in the air
  • away from bystanders, at a minimum horizontal distance of 30 meters for basic operations
  • away from emergency operations and advertised events
  • Avoid forest fires, outdoor concerts, and parades
  • away from airports and heliports
  • 5.6 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from airports
  • 1.9 kilometers (1 nautical mile) from heliports
  • outside controlled airspace (for basic operations only)
  • far away from other aircraft
  • Don’t fly anywhere near airplanes, helicopters, and other drones

Regulations Governing Toronto Drone Photography

Regulations about drone photography get a little complicated in Toronto. So I will try my best to explain this comprehensively and understandably.

Toronto drone map | robert lowdon photography
Flight restrictions in toronto

The Airspace over Toronto is Restricted

Most of Toronto is under restricted airspace for drones. This is because of the proximity to three main airports. Billy Bishop in Downtown Toronto, Downsview Airport to the north, and Pearson Airport in Missaugua to the east.

This means that you will need to have an advanced drone license to fly and you will need a Nav Canada approval.

Unless you have a drone that is under 250g. Then those rules don’t apply. You still can’t be reckless or fly near an airport. You would be in these control areas so you could still be in trouble.

You Can’t Fly Over People

According to the regulations you are not allowed to fly over people without an approved fall arrest system or parachute for your drone. Since Toronto is a dense urban center it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without people. Most of your drone flights will be limited to straight up in the air and straight down.

Finding Somewhere to Take Off and Land is Difficult

According to the regulations you are recommended to have permission from the property owner to take off and land from their premises. That is pretty straightforward.

But it gets really weird because it’s kind of vague and confusing. The rules of the ground are just subject to local bylaws with drones, but local bylaws don’t take precedence over Transport Canada. So locals can’t prevent you from flying a drone, but they can prevent you from taking off and landing.

So How does this all Apply to Toronto?

Well, it gets more confusing, because Toronto has a bylaw that restricts all model airplanes from parks and public spaces. Is a drone different than a model airplane, maybe? But if you look at the wording it becomes apparent that a drone would fall into their classification.

But what about Streets, Sidewalks, and Public Parking Lots?

Who knows. I think they would fall under public spaces and be governed by that bylaw. I don’t think local authorities would be ok with you operating in these spaces anyway. And you would have to maintain distance from people.

Can You Even Fly a Drone in Downtown Toronto?

Yes, there is a way to get a permit to fly from any park or public space in Toronto. It involves getting a film permit from the city of Toronto also known as Filmpal. The project will have to be commercial and involve you guessed it filming. I have seen there is an option for student films as well.

Be prepared to submit your drone pilot’s license, proof of insurance, and Nav Canada approvals. Also, a flight plan and operation map should be submitted. The process is pretty straightforward and usually has a relatively quick turnaround.

Should You Fly a Drone in Downtown Toronto

Now that I have discussed how you can fly, maybe we should talk about if you should. If you have your advanced license, a good amount of experience, and are prepared to get all the proper permissions you should. consider it for your next project. The footage is amazing.

If you don’t have all of these just don’t do it. It is not worth it. I am not saying you can’t work up to it, start with your basic license and move up from there.

Keep in mind restrictive drone laws are a direct result of past reckless behavior.

City drone image
Building in downtown toronto

Tips for Getting Started with Commercial Photography involving Drones

If you’re interested in getting started with drone photography, it is not as difficult as you might think. There are however a few things you will need:

An Advanced Pilots Licence

This is the license you will need to effectively carry out commercial work. You can get by with a basic license but it will be location restrictive especially if you are in a major city.

Comprehensive Insurance

Drone insurance is a must. I will often not be a part of any other policy you currently have. I recommend using skywatch.ai

Professional Drone

You will need a drone to carry out drone work lol. Depending on the work you do a Mavic or a Phantom might be enough for what you need. Or you might need something horrendously expensive with better image quality.

A Marketing Plan

You need a way to market your work. You can use social media, a website, or go old-school and print some business cards. Whatever you do make sure you have a plan because no one will know you exist if you don’t tell them.

Q&A

Here I will try to answer all your questions about drone photography.

How Much Does a Drone Photoshoot Cost?

Drone photography costs anywhere between $100 and $1000 per hour. The complexity of the shoot is one of the biggest factors in determining cost.

Who is the Best Drone Photographer?

Me, I am. Just kidding around, there are lots of great drone photographers out there.

Is there a Market for Drone Photography?

Yes, there is a market for drone photography. Many businesses require aerial photographs and drone videography.

Is a Drone Photography Business profitable?

Yes, a drone services business can be profitable. It is important to remember that you will need to invest in quality equipment and marketing to be successful.

Is Drone Photography for Real Estate Worth it?

Yes, drone photography for real estate can be worth it. It is a great way to showcase properties and can help you attract more customers.

Are Drone Photographers in Demand?

Yes, drone photographers are in demand. There are only so many people who are qualified for advanced operations.

What is the Best Drone for Real Estate Photography?

The best drone for real estate is the DJI Mavic 3. It is a powerful and versatile drone that can take high-quality photos and videos. It is also easy to use, making it a great choice.

What is the Advantage of Aerial Photography?

Aerial photography provides a whole new perspective of objects on the ground, which can help survey land, track environmental changes, or identify potential hazards.

The high vantage point afforded by aerial photography and videography can also help to contextualize features that might be difficult to see from the ground, such as patterns in agricultural fields or the layout of a city.

Do Drones shoot in RAW?

Many people don’t realize that drones can also shoot in RAW, giving you even more control over the final image or video. RAW files are unprocessed data from the camera sensor, which means they contain all of the information captured by the drone. This gives you more flexibility when editing, as you can make changes without affecting the quality of the image.

Conclusion: Drone Photography Toronto

Drone photography is a great way to get a unique perspective on things from high up in the air. It can be used for a variety of purposes, such as real estate, commercial advertising, and even landscape photography.

Whether you are a professional photographer looking to capture images and drone video or a hobbyist I hope this guide has provided some clarity.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice.

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