By Matt Nicholls
Canada has long been a global leader in the development of new technologies and processes to add value and enhance operations in aviation and aerospace, so it’s certainly not surprising to see organizations from coast-to-coast taking leadership roles in the rapidly developing unmanned space.
In 2017, organizations across a variety of industries took their unmanned pursuits to new levels, introducing systems, applications and technologies that showcase just how impressive UAVs can be, what their capabilities are and what value they can bring to commercial operations.
Take the City of Victoria B.C. Fire Department for example. As Paul Dixon outlines in his piece “In the Line of Fire,” pg. 14, B.C.’s capital city is working in concert with Salt Spring Island, B.C.-based UAV firm, Indro Robotics and Remote Sensing to implement unmanned technology into its operations for a variety of roles including situational firefighting reconnaissance, emergency management, search and rescue (SAR) and more.
The city’s UAV is also being shared by other departments, mainly on the law enforcement side, to be deployed in critical police operations. And while the program is very much in its infancy, the potential for what the modified DJI Matrice 100 is immense – the sky truly is the limit.
A similar situation can be found in Edmonton, where UAVs are being used in aviation-related applications to enhance safety operations. The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) for example, is employing a unique UAV solution by the team from Clear Flight Solutions (CFS) and AERIUM Analytics for wildlife management. The life-like Robird UAS is helping keep pests at bay, making EIA the first airport in the world to implement this type of technology. This illustrates how the integration of UAV ingenuity and airport operations can work together to enhance safety.
UAV innovation and development on commercial unmanned applications is being further explored at two prominent Canada UAV research and development sites – the not-for-profit Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (CCUVS) in Medicine Hat, Alta. and the UAS Centre of Excellence (UAS CE) in Alma, Que. As Joe Atherton explains in “National Buzz: Leading the UAV Curve,” pg. 10, each site is enhancing the development of UAV applications on a variety of levels.
The CCUVS Foremost range was the site of a critical beyond-visual-line-of-site (BVLOS) achievement earlier this year, when Ventus Geospatial used an Aeryon Labs Skyranger UAS and a C-Astral Bramor fixed wing platform to perform BVLOS flights.
Transport Canada (TC) continues to work with members of the Canadian unmanned industry to establish a regulatory environment that will safely support commercial UAS operations and BVLOS activity. Once this framework is established, commercial UAS opportunities will take off. The spinoff effects for the training community and other supporting UAS industries will follow.
UAV market surveys consistently place the future value of the commercial unmanned industry over the next decade in the billions of dollars. It’s highly encouraging that many Canadian firms are positioning themselves to capitalize on this future growth potential. With the proper regulatory framework in place – including acceptable BVLOS regulations – Canada will continue to be one of the global leaders in the developing UAV space.