When an executive and pilot with an Oregon UAV company speaks with FAA officials about regulation of remotely piloted systems, he tells them to “look to the North.” Canada, it seems, has become a leader in the regulation of UAVs.

That standing gained a little more visibility on Wednesday with the announcement by Transport Canada of two exemptions from the usual Special Flight Operations Certificate required to operate UAVs. The exemptions will apply to aircraft under two kilograms and certain aircraft up to 25 kilograms conducting low risk operations below a certain altitude, away from built up areas and within visual line of sight.

Martin Eley, director general for civil aviation, announced the new approach for commercial operators during the annual Unmanned Systems Canada (USC) conference in Montreal.

Officials from Transport Canada have regularly provided the conference with an update on the progression of regulations, which have usually been characterized as a work in progress. This year there was a decidedly different tone.

In addition to the two exemptions, Eley also talked of regulations for more complex systems and better guidance for operators. “The big barrier is beyond-line-of-sight,” he said. “That is the biggest single piece we have yet to get to.”

In late October, Transport Canada launched a safety awareness campaign for UAVs to help commercial and recreational users better understand risk, vehicle safety and their responsibilities.

“This approach will dramatically improve the ability for Canadian business to safely make use of this extremely capable technology while substantially reducing the time it takes to get authorizations for more complex operations,” said Stewart Baillie, chairman of USC. “Coupled with the safety awareness campaign announced two weeks ago, I believe that Canada now has one of the most effective and progressive UAS regulatory frameworks in the world.”

The awareness campaign also drew praise from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada and the UAS Centre of Excellence.

“More and more users have acquired small UAS for recreational use or for commercial purposes; however, many of these new operators have a very little knowledge about the regulations surrounding this type of systems,” said Marc Moffatt, director general of the UAS CE. “We applaud this initiative from the Minister of Transport.”