Medicine Hat, Alberta is home to Canada’s only robonics launcher. The acquisition of the MC2555LLR-027 launcher by Medicine Hat-based Meggitt Target Systems opens up local opportunities in the growing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or drone) market by allowing for aerial testing in nearby restricted airspaces at CFB Suffield and Foremost.
Although drones may, at times, seem like science fiction, the technology is at the centre of a fast-growing market. According to Unmanned Systems Canada, the number of Canadian companies involved in UAV has grown more than 300% since 2008 while the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) anticipates the global industry will grow to $82 billion by 2026.
Unmanned Systems Canada and Transport Canada are well aware of the impending market boom and are working together to develop market-friendly, safe UAV regulations. Currently, Canada’s UAV regulations are more lenient than those south of the border, which has led to major US companies such as Amazon looking to our country as a testing ground.
Despite its leniency, BVLOS testing is still difficult to attain in Canada, but is permissible on a case-by-case basis within restricted airspaces. Unmanned Systems Canada, meanwhile, recently published a position paper on the topic that highlights the industry’s growth and need for more permissive regulations.
The attractiveness of Meggitt’s launcher is enhanced by some of Canada’s most unique restricted airspaces. CFB Suffield operates a 2,700 square kilometre airspace a mere 50km from Medicine Hat along the Trans-Canada Highway, while 100km South West of Medicine Hat is the 2,400 square kilometre Foremost airspace, which is one of Canada’s first Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing grounds.
Canada’s drone regulations are ahead of all but a handful of countries around the world according to an Unmanned Systems Canada report. Medicine Hat’s proximity to unique airspace assets, combined with existing expertise, makes the city well-positioned to take advantage of this exciting new industry.