Unmanned Canada 2017 Follow-up.
This year has been another busy and productive year, with several notable milestones achieved. Our 15th national conference in Toronto was once again a resounding success with excellent content from over 65 speakers. The introduction of an Unmanned Traffic Management panel followed from USC’s participation in ICAO’s Drone Enable conference in Montreal earlier in the year, dedicated to this subject. A Canadian approach will be developed in 2018 which will engage the telecommunications industry, NAVCANADA and many others. Likewise, the Artificial Intelligence panel opened a window to another rapidly growing industry which will be a key enabler to analyzing large volumes of data to attain actionable outcomes for customers. Finally, the conference was the first time we had introduced a B2B forum; again, a resounding success with over 200 matches made. Put UnmannedCanada 2018 in Vancouver into your calendars, and your budgets. We will have initial information for sponsors early in the New Year.
The USC Regulatory Committee has recently met again with Transport Canada to review our CG1 input and understand the general assessment TC has made of the over 600 responses that they have received. We continue to work with them on developing the concept of a ‘compliant operator’ and have volunteered to assemble and industry team to develop the requisite standards. We remain confident that our most pressing concerns will be addressed in CG2. Nonetheless, the challenge of reaching the general public with the safety message remains a concern for all, and we know that many of you are contributing to that effort. Noteably, commercial operators have proven themselves to be highly safety-conscious, and being acknowledged as such by key stakeholders.
Future TC/USC Workplan
As some of you may be aware, when the UAV Program Design Working Group was established in 2007, the industry/government body co-chaired by USC and TC, it envisaged a four phase workplan. The first phase, VLOS <25kg is nearing completion with CG2. Phase 2 has stalled due to lack of resources at TC, with little progress since USC issued BVLOS Best Practices this past February and the two test ranges gained their approvals. With new resources, USC is now re-engaged with TC to put a major focus on Phase 2 (i.e. enabling BVLOS) and defining the way ahead foro >25kg (formerly Phases 3 and 4).
As you are reading this update, I will have had another meeting with MP Karen McCrimmon, the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Garneau to specifically update her on our review of CG1 and what we should expect for the industry in 2018.
Many of you may be aware, that at UnmannedCanada2016 in Edmonton, with the support of the Alberta government a meeting was held between Transport Canada and Mexican officials to discuss the need for a bilateral agreement between regulators to permit Canadian industry to operate UAS in Mexico. We subsequently participated in a bilateral meeting preceding FAMEX in Mexico City earlier this year, with an agreement being achieved in mid-summer. Most recently, some of you may have seen the success of one of the commercial initiatives resulting from this enabling agreement with SKYX BVLOS flights in Mexico (see our website for the press release). This collaborative effort provides me an opportunity to thank the many staff at Transport Canada, both in Ottawa and the regions who have truly put their shoulder into moving our industry forward in many aspects, not the least of which is approving over 7000 SFOCs this year. That collaboration will deepen further in 2018 as new challenges need to be addressed.
Finding $ – Enabling BVLOS
USC has been focused for over a year in seeking opportunities to obtain funding to enable a national BVLOS cluster and strategy. The key concept is to support companies undertaking BVLOS trials and demonstrations and to collaborate in sharing the safety case data in a common risk model which has been validated for that purpose. In November, USC with the support of LOOKNorth finalized a project submission with LOOKNorth for the MOST21 Supercluster bid. Eleven companies provided support to that bid. It is expected that the federal government will announce up to 5 winning superclusters from the 9 final submissions in the April 2018 timeframe. Should we be successful, this will provide a major boost to enabling BVLOS as the superclusters will leverage $950M in federal funding to meet project objectives. Included in our objectives with BVLOS will also be seeking opportunities to conduct initial UTM trials, and to work with partners in the ICT and AI industries. USC is also engaged with other supercluster bids, notably an Agri-Food supercluster which also engages the unmanned systems community (air and ground) with the ICT and AI industries in an agricultural context. In any event, once the final selections are announced, anticipating that USC will be involved in at least one of these, additional companies will be engaged in these projects. The key message for our UAS industry is that collaboration is absolutely essential in a globally competitive marketplace. The concept of a risk-based approach is endorsed by ICAO and the principle of collaboration is highly advocated by Transport Canada.
USC Flight Safety Initiative
An outcome of UC2017 was the offer by Anne-Sophie Riopel of ExoDrone to start a flight safety program. Anne-Sophie is an RCAF-trained flight safety officer, bringing her expertise and experience to leading this effort. This is a welcomed move forward to bring an aviation safety culture to the UAS industry built upon sharing experience without fear of retribution. As a starting point, Anne-Sophie attended the semi-annual meeting of the Canadian Aviation Safety Officer Partnership held in Montreal in November, where USC was voted into the membership. Stand by for more in 2018.
Helicopter Association of Canada
USC presented at the HAC annual event in November updating the audience on the state of the UAS industry with a focus on UTM. A healthy discussion followed on how to improve low airspace management and communications for both communities.
USC is a member of a plenary group led by NAVCanada which includes all of the key stakeholders in the advancement of our national airspace. This semi-annual meeting provides USC with a unique insight into the ANS roadmap, the key concerns and updates on progress being made. At the latest November event, USC presented a status on UTM, laying the groundwork for focused efforts in 2018 including working with NAVCanada to start defining the relationships between ATM (Air Traffic Management) and UTM.
This event is hosted annually by the governments of Germany and Canada to discuss enhancing trade. This year’s subject was the UAV industry. The event is a ‘double-ender’ with the proceedings being broadcast simultaneously to audiences in Montreal and Berlin. New contacts and information, including Canadian companies already working with German partners will provide valuable inputs to the International Business Development strategy being updated by USC by end-year. A Board-approved IBD is a pre-requisite for applying to the Canadian International Trade department (under Global Affairs) for export development support, such as supporting participation at Xponential, in Mexico etc..
COSIA UAS Workshop
The Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance will be holding a UAV workshop for its members in December. USC provided input to a presentation to be provided by LOOKNorth to further our engagement with COSIA and this very important vertical market.
Manitoba Precision Agriculture Workshop
We have just concluded on 12 December our second workshop. A tremendous opportunity to get updated on the latest in a very rapidly moving industry which is leading the introduction of autonomous systems, and dealing with issues of big data, improved decision making and continuous learning. 75 participants enjoyed a deep dive into many issues and opportunities to network at the excellent facilities at Southport. In addition to the folks at Southport, my thanks to RME Geomatics and AgBusiness and Crop Inc. who put the agenda together. We’ll be back in Southport later this year for the Student Competition.
Board of Directors
I am looking forward to working with the new Board of Directors as we set out with an updated strategic plan. These volunteer positions can be very demanding of their time, and I offer my thanks to each of them on your behalf. 2018 will be focused on membership, demonstrating value to for membership and increasing our membership which has leveled over the past two years, notwithstanding the tremendous growth in our industry. Participation and access to potential federal funding to advance BVLOS is but one of many such member benefits. Working together we foster success!
Many volunteers support the association throughout the year, our Student UAV Competition Committee being a notable example. We are always looking for new volunteers. Those of you who responded to our post-conference survey call for volunteers have hopefully already been contacted. This newsletter, key to informing stakeholders is a result of Jacob Hrycak stepping forward to fill a void which we have had for some time. Many thanks Jacob!
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the contributions which Sonia Higgins has made over the past two years as our Executive Director. She has approached innumerable daily tasks with passion and dedication for which we are grateful. This is also an opportunity to welcome Glenn Martin as our new Executive Director. She will be introduced to all of you in our next newsletter!
Stay tuned for an announcement shortly on a BVLOS workshop, a half-day event being planned for February in Montreal. Teleconferencing facilities will also be set up for this.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, we wish you all a festive Christmas season, and a prosperous New Year.