USC Chairman’s Update – Christmas 2017

Unmanned Systems Canada Chairman Update for Christmas 2017

This year has been another busy and productive year, with several notable milestones achieved. Here’s some highlights:

Unmanned Canada 2017  Conference News

USC held our 15th Annual National “Unmanned Canada Conference and Trade Show” in Toronto, ON this November – it was a resounding success! For three days, we hosted networking events, B2B sessions, a full exhibitor hall and excellent content from over 65 speakers. Highlights included:

  • The introduction of an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) panel that arose from USC’s participation in ICAO’s Drone Enable conference in Montreal earlier in the year
  • Watch USC News for updates about future UTM workshops as we lead the Canadian approach to UTM development 2018 to engage the telecommunications industry, NAV CANADA and many others.
  • Likewise, the Artificial Intelligence panel opened a window into another rapidly growing industry. Big Data and AI will be key enablers to compile and analyze large volumes of data to provide actionable outcomes for customers.
  • Our first USC Business-to-Business (B2B) networking forum...what a resounding success! We booked then facilitated over 200 B2B and B2G matches over the three days of our event.
  • Our first USC Women in Drones Luncheon had over 20 participants including drone operators, lawyers, policy advisors, government and procurement rep’s, software developers, trainers, and sales women…watch for our #WomenInDrones committee news, conference luncheon invite and ‘inclusion sponsorship’ packages next year!
  • Make sure to mark your calendars and budgets for Unmanned Canada 2018 in Vancouver. Sign up for USC NEWS to keep informed about sponsor, exhibitor and delegate packages early in the New Year.

Regulatory Update

Canada Gazette 1 (CG1)  review

The USC Regulatory Committee continues to meet with Transport Canada (TC) 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.
  • Addressing the challenge of reaching the general public with the drone safety message remains a concern for all. USC knows that many of you are contributing the effort to inform recreational and non-professional flyers about aviation safety, airspaces, and aviation regulations.  Noteably, commercial operators have proven themselves to be highly safety-conscious – and are being acknowledged as such by key stakeholders.

Future TC/USC Workplan

As some of you may be aware, the UAV Program Design Working Group was established in 2007 and was an industry/government body co-chaired by USC and TC. They envisaged a four-phase work plan.

  • The first phase outlining operations within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) for UAV’s under 25kg, is nearing completion with Canada Gazette 2 (CG2)
  • Phase 2 had stalled due to lack of resources at Transport Canada, with little progress since USC issued the BVLOS Best Practices this past February and the two UAS test ranges gained their approvals. With the new Transport Canada UAS Task Force – many of whom presented at UC 2017 Toronto, we are happy that various committees are re-engaging with USC and industry partners. We look forward to their focus, more outreach opportunities and announcements for new initiatives that may enabling BVLOS trials in 2018
  • The TC UAS Task Force work on Phase 2 will also help define the way ahead to advance regulations for professional operators from industry, defense and the research sector using equipment over 25kg (formerly Phases 3 and 4).

Policy Engagement

As you are reading this update, I will have had another meeting with MP Karen McCrimmon, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mr. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation.  We will be providing updates from our USC review of CG1 and insights into TC’s UAS Task Force progress. I look forward to learning what our national industry association, our members and the growing number of Unmanned Systems community stakeholders can expect in 2018.

Updates about Canada-Mexico Unmanned Systems Agreements

At Unmanned Canada 2016 in Edmonton, AB, the Alberta government facilitated meetings was between Transport Canada and officials from Mexico’s DGAC (Director General Aviation Council) to discuss the need to develop a bilateral agreement that permits Canadian industry to operate in Mexico. Many follow-up meetings continued through the new year, and a strong a delegation of Canadian aerospace and UAS drone and component manufacturers, software developers, training organizations and service providers participated in a follow-up meetings and the exhibotor hall at FAMEX in Mexico City in May 2017.  Unmanned Systems Canada, our trade commissioners and Transport Canada representatives met with aviation authorities from Mexico, and an agreement was achieved in mid-summer.  Key results for Canadian operators
1.An Alberta-based member of USC, AirMarket, partnered with Mexico’s largest mapping company, CartoData, to apply for then get awarded a Commercialization Grant jointly funded by Alberta Economic Development and their sister organization in Jalisco, COECYTJL. Watch USC News for updates about “Project HERMES’

  1. Ontario-based SKYX completed the first bi-lateral industry BVLOS flights in Mexico (see our website for the press release).

These collaborative efforts provides me an opportunity to thank the many staff at Transport Canada, both in Ottawa and those regions, who have truly put their shoulder into moving our industry forward in many aspects. Transport Canada approved over 7000 SFOC permits (Special Flight Operations Certificates) this year. That collaboration will deepen further in 2018 as new challenges need to be addressed.

Finding Resources to Enable BVLOS and UAS Industry Expansion

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 BVLOS Supercluster will provide a major boost to enabling BVLOS trials and industry adoption 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.

Recent Events

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 NAV CANADA 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.

Germany/Canada Concourse

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.

Association Update

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!

Executive Director

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!

Upcoming Events

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 and holiday season – and a prosperous New Year!

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