UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (UAVs)
For the aerospace industry, Southeast Alberta’s assets and strategic advantages are worth a look. Canada’s only beyond-line-of-sight restricted airspace is within 100km of Medicine Hat and is poised to become the preferred destination for drone companies to test prototype technology. According to Canadian Unmanned Inc., the 2,400 square kilometre airspace allows for testing up to an altitude of 18,000 feet, presenting “significant training, research and development possibilities for both Canadian and international companies.”
QinitiQ Target Systems‘ (formerly Meggitt Target Systems) Medicine Hat branch provides unmanned aerial, land, and aquatic targets for military around the world. CFB Suffield, Northeast of Medicine Hat, offers the largest live-fire training ground in the British Commonwealth.
All of this is to say that Medicine Hat has the assets, expertise, and space to serve as a training and testing centre for the anticipated 82 billion dollar industry. Indeed, companies are already beginning to use the Foremost airspace to test their BVLOS technology.
It certainly appears Medicine Hat has an important role to play in this not-to-distant sci-fi future.
In 2014, the Unmanned Systems Canada (USC) update of the Canadian Civil UAV Study indicates that the dollar value of the Canadian UAV market can vary, but could range from $100 million to $260 million in procurement and operations over a 10 year period. USC’s report also noted a threefold increase in the number of Canadian companies conducting UAV operations since 2008.
Transport Canada acknowledges the growing interest in commercial and recreational UAV use and is currently provides less restrictive UAV regulations than the U.S. BVLOS testing is allowed in Canada on a case-by-case basis, as they work to develop regulations.
The following are potential mature market applications that have been identified by Transport Canada and USC as applying UAVs.
- Agriculture surveys
- cinematography and film
- police investigations
POTENTIAL ECONOMIC APPLICATIONS
The following applications hold potential but require increased airspace and testing opportunities, according to Transport Canada and USC.
- search and rescue
- urban planning/surveying
- disaster relief
- monitoring the integrity of Canadian pipelines and hydro lines
- measuring the bulk value of our forests
- environmental monitoring of the ArcticBVLOS technology also offers opportunity for the agriculture sector to monitor crops and herds.
CANADIAN UAV SECTOR
- Since 2008 there has been a threefold increase in Canadian Universities involved in UAV (31 versus 11). (This does not include any activity at Canadian Colleges)
- The number of Canadian companies involved in this sector has also shown more than a three-fold growth (312 versus 88) compared to 2008.
- “Small” UAV (up to 25 Kg) remain the focus of the Canadian industry and of this study. While other categories of system (larger and smaller) are touted and may have long term potential, they are not considered to be priority for support to Canadian industry at the moment due to uncertainty and long time frames.
THE CIVIL UAV MARKET
- Market estimates for Civil UAV are wide ranging due to the emergent nature of this sector, the reliance on new and developing markets and technology, and the barriers presented by regulation (two example estimates are cited in this report : $800M/year2 and $4.5B/year3 ). The authors are reluctant to develop any generalized estimate of the dollar value of the Canadian UAV civil market due to the large number of assumptions required to make such an estimate. For comparison sake, and to illustrate the variety of assumptions required, an estimated Canadian economic value of four “emerging UAS Applications” in Canada is developed. This estimate ranged from $100 M to $260 M in procurements and operations over a 10 year period, depending upon the underlying assumptions chosen.
- The AUVSI U.S. market assessment predicts an overall economic impact of this sector in the twelve year period 2015-2026 to be $US 82 Billion.
- The Teal Group estimates a civil UAS economic value of approximately $800 Million annually by 2023.
- The regulatory recommendations provided by the Transport Canada UAV Working Group in 2007 have served as a roadmap which has generally been followed since 2008.
- UAV regulation in Canada is better than many jurisdictions, but lags some.
- At least 6 other countries report having some level of regulation in place for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations.
- BVLOS Operations remain unattainable for now in Canada, but regulatory work is starting to focus on this barrier to many commercial UAV applications.
- The U.S. regulatory environment is less permissive than Canada’s, and numerous issues abound – but the pressure for the FAA to enact enabling regulations continues to grow.
Information on the Civil UAV Market and Regulation is provided by Canadian Civil UAS report 2014.
With 700 square nautical miles (2,400 square kilometres) of airspace designated for up to 18,000 feet above sea level, the Foremost Centre for Unmanned Vehicles opens up training, research and development possibilities for both Canadian and international companies. It Canada’s first beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) airspace and a potentially important early step in the development of commercial drones in Canada.
- Designated Altitude: 4,000ft to 10,000ft
- User Agency: Transport Canada (613) 990-9869
- Controlling Agency: Edmonton ACC (780) 890-8397
- Operating Procedures: No person shall operate an aircraft within the area described unless the flight has been authorized by the User/Controlling Agency.
- Source: Designated Airspace Handbook, Issu
CFB Suffield Airspace
CFB Suffield controls the 2,700 sq. km restricted airspace, which represents Canada’s largest live-fire testing ground, and one of the largest in the world. This asset is used for testing by Canadian and British military. Some cattle grazing and oil & gas activity takes place on the land, representing an opportunity for further unmanned aerial systems (UAS) testing in those industries.
- Designated Altitude: Surface to unlimited
- User/Controlling Agency: Operations Officer, CFB Suffield (403) 544-4310/4313, (CSN) 520-4310/ 4313
- Operating Procedures – No person shall operate an aircraft within the area described unless the flight has been authorized by the User/Controlling Agency.
- Source: Designated Airspace Handbook, Issue 254
Associations, Trade Fairs and Training
Legislation and Regulation
Drone pilots are required to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). A Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) tells you how and where you may fly your drone (legally known as a UAV). Here’s a handy flowchart to help you understand if you need to apply for an SFOC.