Imagine drones affecting response times in search and rescue operations, agriculture, and environmental planning. Calgary’s Living Lab initiative is allowing companies to test these innovative ideas using city spaces and infrastructure.
Calgary is making huge strides in drone testing and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights by unmanned aircraft. We’re one of the only cities in North America in which this testing can be done, which is a huge competitive advantage for the city.
Advancing BVLOS - putting Calgary on the map
Chris Healy, owner and operator of INFLIGHT Data, has partnered with the City on significant drone testing and BVLOS projects. They’ve set a North American record for BVLOS, and most recently, broken ground advancing BVLOS for cities with a comprehensive survey for the new graveyard planned for Calgary. It will be the city’s first new cemetery since 1940.
"This is a huge story for the city of Calgary,” says Healy. “We've never heard of anyone doing this kind of testing inside a city or urban area. Being able to move ahead and open multiple sites for testing is a really big deal.Some of the BVLOS testing we did in Ralph Klein Park is unheard of on the civilian side. We have huge gratitude for the city for seeing the opportunity and partnering with us on this."
Advancements in autonomous systems and BVLOS benefiting Calgary residents
This technology allows us to do more and cover enormous amounts of ground for a fraction of cost and time. The possibilities are endless, and the environmental impact is minimal.
"This significantly benefits Calgarians because there are applications across so many industries. We can reduce the response time and expense of executing on so many operational tasks. When used by the City, that cost reduction can allow us to use tax dollars more efficiently. Companies and organizations see that they can reduce expenses and increase profits." says Healy.
New unmanned systems test site launch
On October 19, 2018, the Point Trotter Autonomous Systems Testing Area (Point Trotter ASTA) opened, providing Calgary businesses, industry, and researchers with a low cost and accessible location to test drones and unmanned autonomous vehicles.
The new site is comprised of 120 acres of space at Point Trotter Industrial Park around the SAIT Fabrication Lab building. Demand for testing at other city facilities has grown to capacity, so a new space was created to ensure Calgary can offer the necessary testing opportunities. Testing that had to be done outside the city, can now be accommodated within city limits.
The new site will allow testing seven days per week, to support Calgary’s industry in technology advancement around UAVS and autonomous systems. It will also offer more opportunity for training for those entering the industry. It’s a perfect fit as SAIT has unmanned aircraft training and professional flight school programs.
Doug Cassidy, Director of Real Estate & Development for the City of Calgary says the new site will help diversify the economy and bring new opportunity to the Calgary Industrial Park space. “It’s another tool to attract new talent and companies to Calgary. Transit service will be developed to Trotter, near the test site, in January 2019, and a future intersection is planned for 2019 as well.”
“Drone use and geospatial analysis are huge for Calgary - there is a lot of innovation coming out of it for our city,” said Patti Dunlop, Business Development Manager, Transportation & Logistics for Calgary Economic Development. “This level of innovation allows our companies to come up with solid offerings and research and development. The companies here are diversifying and creating tons of new technology, and Calgary is leading the way – we are the first municipality in Canada to allow for this type of testing”.
Calgary can lead the industry in Canada and North America. Not only does current testing by INFLIGHT Data break new ground for the city and local companies, it also creates an impressive data set that is shared with Transport Canada. This partnership is helping to create good legislation to help govern this new area. Collaboration in the creation of legislation will mean faster advancements and fewer obstacles for those hoping to take advantage of new opportunities.
“We have endless Prairie,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Let’s use these assets to allow companies to do well here”.
A living lab creates opportunity for all those involved, by increasing economic diversification and helping to create new jobs. It can help attract new investment in our city, and support entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to life. Disruptive technology and innovation hold important keys to a future full of growth for everyone who lives and works here.
Help us understand how your businesses and schools would like to participate in Living Labs by completing this short survey. Survey closes on November 2, 2018.