Public Lab Research note

Air Space Regulations in Canada: How to issue NOTAMs for Kites and Balloons

by ann | January 21, 2015 20:07 21 Jan 20:07 | #11536 | #11536

[Note in progress]

This research note is for those interested in organizing balloon and kite mapping workshops in Canada. Particularly in the Greater Vancouver area, aerial mappers will need to be aware of sea planes and air traffic in the air space above the city. Here are some recommendations on how to safely and legally fly recreational kites and balloons from NAV Canada, a private company that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation services. This note is based on research by Vancouver organizer Melissa Nunes.

NOTE: If Kite or Balloon flying are issues in your area, you can always resort to pole mapping.

What is a NOTAM:

NOTAM stands for A Notice to Airmen and is a notification to pilots before a flight, advising them of circumstances related to the state of flying.

When to issue a NOTAM:

Flying a kite at a location where it is not hazardous to aviation safety or not likely to be hazardous to aviation safety is considered a recreational activity and a NOTAM can be issued.

Issue NOTAM at least 5 hours before the beginning of the activity and no more than 48 hours in advance. Information should be forwarded to the closest Flight Information Centre (FIC) at 1-866-WXBRIEF.

NOTAM information required:

  • type of activity
  • area of activity (radius, co-ordinates, and preferably distance and direction from nearest aerodrome, or bearing and distance from a NAVAID
  • the maximum altitude above mean sea level (MSL) at which the activity will be conducted
  • times of the activity (in Universal Coordinated Time).

This information is found in the Canadian NOTAM Procedures Manual, section 5.5.12 (Recreational Activities) available here.


Awesome! I think @MelissaN added some research to the wiki page too:

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Yep! I am still in the process of nagging various government agencies to respond to me with a set of guidelines/expectations/best practices that make sense to our context and are readable and accessible to regular people.

Be careful with the NOTAMs and the people on the other end of the NOTAM hotline. I called to do a walk through of a hypothetical NOTAM and while the woman was super friendly and helpful she didn't understand the difference between decimal degree coordinates and the coordinate system they use. This would have resulted in my NOTAM being issued for an area a hundred km away from my planned kite flying site if I hadn't been being geeky with her and asking a million questions and if she didn't happen to be friendly and receptive. They aren't used to non aviation people calling using decimal coordinates (the kind google gives you and based on web Mercator projection. That projection shouldn't make a significant difference,but I haven't double checked yet). I expect that if you don't reveal that you aren't a pilot or aviation person that they will uncritically accept your info and google coordinates.

What kind of coordinates to NOTAMS require in the states?

I've been planning to write a research note including a coordinate converter and compiling this all but I don't consider the picture complete yet and still plan on being a royal pain in the ass for Nav Can and Transport Can until they respond to my inquiries more fully specifically with guidelines on WHEN and WHERE one should issue a NOTAM, where they can fly freely, and what activities contribute risks to aviation safety. Currently none of this info appears to be communicated or even thought out. They just say ' don't threaten aviation safety' but then have no info on what constitutes a threat, probably because they are a bunch of aviation people writing regulations for other aviation people and aren't expecting laypeople to be reading and making a bunch of convenient assumptions so that their super fun kite flying activity can still move forward (I did this and learned the hardest way possible without causing anyone to die or planes to crash)

It would appear they are on a process of re analyzing to address drones, so I am hoping to make them aware of some kite and balloon uses that may be on the rise too. I am waiting until after the holidays and after I am back in the country to finish this bit of research and get it written up into something hopefully more useful and easily interpreted than what is officially available, but hard to find at present. Stay tuned!

(On a phone - please excuse my poor grammar and sentence structures. This topic requires a full keyboard and screen size!)

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