Aviation history was made in Foremost, Alberta – Invest Medicine Hat

Aviation history was made in Foremost, Alberta

News / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

On Friday, February 24, 2017, the first Transport Canada sanctioned beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone flight took place at the Foremost UAS Range, located an hour’s drive southwest of Medicine Hat.

  • First sanctioned BVLOS flight strengthens Medicine Hat’s position as a UAV centre
  • Medicine Hat’s UAV manufacturing, design, fabrication, and testing serve a global market

After a decade of work with Transport Canada, NAV Canada, and the Government of Alberta, Canada’s first approved BVLOS drone flight took place southwest of Medicine Hat, at the village of Foremost Aerodrome.

The historic moment strengthens Medicine Hat as an important player in the anticipated multi-billion-dollar UAV industry.

Before unlocking this new industry’s massive potential, the task of integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace needs to be addressed. New technology needs to be developed and tested, including sense-and-avoid technology in the event that a drone finds itself in a manned plane’s flightpath. Foremost will play a critical role in demonstrating such technology.

Medicine Hat’s proximity to the 2,400 square kilometer Foremost range, not to mention proximity to CFB Suffield, has already put the city on the UAV industry map.

For nearly a decade, Medicine Hat was home to the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems –-precursor to drone pilot training company Canadian Unmanned Inc. – and one of the driving forces behind the Foremost UAS Range special BVLOS certification.

Meanwhile, QinetiQ Target Systems (formerly Meggitt Target Systems) has been building best-in-class unmanned training vehicles in Medicine Hat for military around the world since 2004, and is forecasting growth in 2017.

Local fabricators are well-versed in manufacturing parts for QinetiQ, while Medicine Hat College 3D printing capabilities and drafting graduates provide additional value to the regional aerospace sector.

For companies looking to locate in Western Canada, Medicine Hat has a healthy population of engineers, drawing from Calgary and Edmonton to supplement the local labour force. Emerging and pre-commercial companies can take advantage of Alberta’s generous innovation funding supports, as well as Medicine Hat’s angel investment network.

With Friday’s BVLOS flight now in the books, interest in the range is expected to grow as manufacturers race to develop the required technology. Companies can locate operations in Medicine Hat knowing they have access to capital, workforce, market, and airspace.