Each Canadian airspace is given a letter, A-G, to help users understand the types of permissions, services and operations that you’ll find in each area. These areas have vertical and horizontal boundaries creating a 3-dimensional space. Transport Canada has delegated the task of managing airspace to NAV CANADA, a national not-for-profit who employs the folks that work in the airport towers as well as other facilities across the country to manage aircraft (okay, they’re managing pilots) and provide information pre-, during and post flight.

Broadly, airspace gets classified into controlled or uncontrolled which refers to whether or not NAV CANADA is providing services within that area.


  • Not all airports are in controlled airspace
  • Controlled airspace is not the same as restricted airspace. It is true to say controlled airspace has restrictions but restricted airspace is a whole other thing
  • The Department of National Defence also manages airspace for specific military locations

Since NAV CANADA released NAV Drone, an app geared for drone pilots to help identify airspace and receive airspace permission, the need to understand airspace classes has reduced. But the context provided in this blog will absolutely be helpful in increasing your situational awareness in flight and passing your advanced written exam.

To put it perhaps too honestly, drone pilots only really need to care about some of the classes of airspace. We need to know where it exists at the altitudes we’re flying at (ground to 400’) but also how to know what, if anything, exists above us in case we have a vertical fly away.

Canadian Airspace


Class A

Boundaries: Everywhere but altitude-based. Class A exists at FL180 or 18 000’ and higher.

Drone pilot context: If you’re up there you either really meant to be or something more serious has gone on and you should probably deal with that first before worrying about airspace permission.

Drone pilot concern rating: 1/5



Class B

Boundaries: Everywhere but altitude-based. Class B exists between 12 500’ and 17 999’.

Drone pilot context: See Class A airspace.

Drone pilot concern rating: 1/5



Class C

Boundaries: Ground level to usually 3000’ AGL with square bracket [ shapes on VTA/VNCs. Usually a circle with a 3-7NM radius surrounding airports. Usually. It also exists at higher levels (700’+) in high air traffic areas surrounding airports.

Drone pilot context: Class C requires a clearance. This means you need permission to enter before you do (and this isn’t one of those ask for forgiveness situations). NAV Drone is how advanced pilots get permission. Basic pilots aren’t allowed in except if they’re doing their flight review.

Drone pilot concern rating: 5/5 – this is the big one.


Class D

Boundaries: Also ground level to usually 3000’ AGL with defined with [ shapes on VTA/VNCs. Also usually a circle with a 3-7NM radius surrounding airports. Fewer services are provided to aircraft operating in Class D vs. Class C.

Drone pilot context: Can be treated the same as class C because to you, it’s essentially the same thing. Still controlled airspace so advanced pilots are allowed in and basic are not.

Drone pilot concern rating: 4/5 but with caveats that’ll come up soon


Class E

Boundaries: hah! 2200’ on airways, unless otherwise indicated. Or wherever else it wants to be. Indicated with dashed lines — on VTAs/VNCs if it touches the ground, or shaded lines if it begins at a higher elevation. Usually the next “step” up for class E after being at ground level is 700’.

Drone pilot context: Class E is often lurking above your flight area, so it’s good to know how to identify it since it isn’t (currently) information that’s provided by NAV Drone. Still controlled airspace so still off limits to basic pilots.

Drone pilot concern rating: 3/5



Class F

Boundaries: ground level to whatever is indicated on VTA/VNCs or in the DAH (Designated Airspace Handbook) and bounded by “comb” lines (I just made that up) Solid outer line with many smaller lines pointing toward the centre.

Drone pilot context: Another type of airspace you’re likely to encounter at ground level. It’s often funkier shapes – big polygons or small circles – than airport airspace that you’ll see on NAV products.

Concern for drone pilots: 5/5 and 3/5 and 0/5 – let me explain

Class F is “special use” airspace. It can be controlled or uncontrolled depending on what’s going on around it. Class F gets further subdivided into three categories – Danger (CYD), Advisory (CYA) and Restricted (CYR). See why I didn’t want you calling controlled airspace restricted airspace now?
Class F is controlled or uncontrolled, depending on whatever airspace it’s surrounded by. Class F prison inside a control zone? That’s controlled class F so advanced only. Class F flight training area surrounded by class G? That’s uncontrolled class F so go for it basic pilots!

CYDs exist over international waters so you’re unlikely to encounter them. 0/5 concern
CYAs mean to alert you of some other airspace activity taking place – hang gliding, flight training, aerobatics, parachuting – all things that could bring aircraft and/or people down to your drone flight altitudes. 3/5 concern. You want to know where they exist and be extra vigilant if you’re nearby.
CYRs are your 5/5 concern. Typically you’ll have these over very sensitive areas like prisons and military installations and temporary class F CYRs are assigned to forest fires and airshows, for example. Know where these areas are and don’t fly in them regardless of your aircraft weight.


Class G

Boundaries: wherever airspace isn’t anything else

Drone pilot context: This is where all the basic pilots are hanging out.

Concern for drone pilots: 0/5

Class G is your “good to go” airspace. Obviously still follow the rules, but you don’t need NAV Drone authorization to operate here. Thankfully the majority of Canadian airspace is class G. You might even run into a scenario where you’re in class G, and there’s a layer of class E, D, or C above you at 700’+. In those scenarios, it’s good to know that wherever you are in Canada, you can call 1-866-Wx-BRIEF and press 1 to report an aviation emergency to NAV CANADA if you have a vertical fly away. If you know the Area Control Centre number for your region instead, even better – call them.


  • Basic Certified pilots can only fly in uncontrolled airspace aka Class G or some Class F
  • Microdrone (sub 250g) pilots can fly in controlled airspace (safely) but not in restricted airspace (Class F CYR)
  • NAV Drone (via app or browser) is the way to get airspace approval as an advanced pilot. Want to learn more? Check out our walkthrough here.


*Note: There’s lots more to airspace than what’s been included above. Reference RPAS 101 or the AIM for more detail. The “level of concern” rankings are subjective, the opinion of one individual and not intended for anything more than rough context for someone new to airspace discussions. If you see anything that needs more clarification or should be included, please send to training@indrorobotics.com