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How To Write Your First SFOC - A Guide

Your first SFOC may seem daunting so we've tried to make this as straightforward as possible. This level of detail probably won't get you a Standing SFOC, but it's enough to get you started on your first flight.

According to the Transport Canada Staff Instruction 623-001 there is no defined format for your SFOC application so we’ve tried to lay things out in a logical format. Feel free to rearrange things to your liking.

Title Page

Keep it simple: 'Application for Special Flight Operations Certificate' will do. List the date of your flight as well as your name, address, and contact details.

Table of Contents

A short SFOC application is going to be at least 10 pages long. Create a table of contents showing that you've included all the pertinent topics.


Introduction - Start with a one sentence description of your application type, where, when, and why you plan on flying. Consider this your ‘thesis statement’.

Applicant - This is the name of the person or company making the application. Include the address, phone number, and fax number.

Insurance - To fly commercially you need to have UAV specific liability insurance. Currently, you don’t need to provide proof of insurance but it would be worth including your insurer and policy number.


For each of the following positions you need to list the name, address, phone and fax number. If someone holds more than one position repeat their details in each section.

Operations Manager

This is the person in charge of the operation. You need to describe why this person is qualified to act as the operations manager. This should include any relevant aviation experience.

You also need to state how the operations manager can be contacted during the operation. If you plan on using a cell phone you need to make sure there is adequate cell reception in the operation area and mention this in your application.

Ground Supervisor

This is the person responsible for the operations area during the operation. They can be the same person as the Operations Manager. Describe why this person is qualified to act as the ground supervisor.

UAV Pilot

This is the Pilot In Command (PIC), the person flying the UAV. They can be the same person as the Operations Manager/Ground supervisor.

Describe why this person is qualified to act as the pilot. This should include any relevant aviation experience, any ground school training covering the TC required information list, and recreational UAV experience.

Payload Operator

This is the person operating the payload, which in most cases is a camera. This can be the UAV Pilot, but you need to address how this additional role will affect their ability to pilot the UAV and how you plan to mitigate any potential risks. The key here is safety.

Describe why this person is qualified to act as the payload operator. This could be as simple as being briefed by the pilot on their duties prior to the flight.

Visual Observer

This is the person assisting the pilot with safety and spatial awareness during the flight. They help provide obstacle clearance and keep watch for other traffic in the area (both in the air and on the ground).

This cannot be the same person as the pilot. There must be at least two people present for every operation.

Describe why this person is qualified to act as the visual observer. This could be as simple as being briefed by the pilot on their duties prior to the flight.

Systems Maintainer

This person is responsible for conducting maintenance on the system. They must have the appropriate skills eg. soldering to be able to carry out these tasks. They must conduct maintenance procedures IAW the UAVs published Maintenance or User Manual. On smaller systems the maintenance might be carried out by the owner. For larger and more complex systems it is better to find someone with aviation maintenance experience.


Aim: Purpose of your flight.

When: Include date & time, with backup dates.

Area: Include Lat&Long, as well as detailed image of the area. Google Maps’ satellite imagery is suitable. Describe the route to be flown with direction and altitude.


List the following details for your UAV and Control Station. The majority of this information can be found in your UAV’s User Guide. Include three images - ideally top, front, side.








Propulsion System:

Fuel System:

Method of Launch:

Method of Recovery:


Flight Sensors:

Visual Detectability:

Max Speed:

Max Endurance:

Max Altitude:

Max Range:

Climb Rate:

Descent Rate:

Operating Temperature:

Control Station

Control Method:

Flight Instrumentation:

Systems Diagnostic:

Environmental Warnings:

Redundant systems:

Control Station Power:

Equipment in Control Station:

Control Station Security:

C2 Links

Operating Frequency:

Max Distance:

Lost Link Indications:

Voice Communications

Primary Method ATC:

Primary Method with Observers:

Communication Latencies:


Increase to Pilot Workload (if also acting as Payload Operator):


If you conduct your own maintenance, ensure and state that it is done IAW your User's Manual.

Operating Procedures

This is where you describe your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). For your first SFOC you can write the details here but in the long run it will be easier to detail everything in an operations manual and attach it with your application.

Flight Rules


Distance from Cloud:

Cloud Ceiling:

Wind Speed:




Icing Conditions:

Where will you obtain weather reports from?

Pre-Operation Procedures

Pre-Flight Procedures

In-Flight Procedures

Post-Flight Procedures


How is your UAV secured when not in use? Where is it stored?

What steps have you taken to secure your C2 link against hijacking?


Below is a list of potential emergency scenarios. You need to decide how you’re going to deal with them and describe your response:

C2 Link Failure -

Loss of Visual Contact -

Operation of the Flight Termination System -

Emergency Landing/Ditching -

Control Station Failures -

Communications Failures -

Fly Aways -

Notifying of First Responders -

That's it! Add all the detail you can but don't waste weeks overthinking it. Transport Canada will give you feedback and request further information if you have missed anything.

Now you're ready to send it off to Transport Canada. Good luck!

#SFOC #DronesCanada #TransportCanada #Education #HowTo #Guide

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