Transport Canada has granted Calgary-based Canadian UAVs the first commercial Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in unrestricted general aviation airspace.
The authorization, noted by Canadian UAVs as a first in Canadian history, follows what the company describes as several years of enterprise-level operations. This includes maintenance procedures, safety management systems and Detect and Avoid technology called the Sparrowhawk Radar.
The new Transport Canada permit builds on Canadian UAVs’ previous performance milestones, which includes conducting the first BVLOS pipeline inspection at the Foremost UAS Test Range (2017) and the first research and development BVLOS SFOC in unrestricted airspace during Transport Canada trials in 2018.
Canadian UAVs states, that over the past five years, it has pioneered and now validated its approach of ground-based, non-cooperative Artificial Intelligence enabled radar that ensures safe separation with traditional manned aviation. The Sparrowhawk software incorporates internationally accepted risk modelling and deconfliction pathways, explains the company, presented in either a standalone format or embedded directly into the ground control.
The Canadian UAVs Sparrowhawk Radar was initially privately funded and then further advanced through the financial and technical support of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and product development and demonstration grants from LookNorth.
In addition to multiple capability demonstrations with Transport Canada, the Sparrowhawk Radar was tested as part of the Department of National Defence IDEaS program in 2019 at Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta. Most recently, the radar was further refined and brought to market as part of a five-year Industrial Technological Benefit (ITB) investment from Peraton Canada.
Canadian UAVs explains it is focused on providing industrial institutions with unmanned systems that are scalable, with data driven fidelity for remote assets monitoring in real-time. The company also notes the increased range in BVLOS operations requires real-time airspace situational awareness for the UAV pilot and support crew, to achieve safe and repeatable operations.
“Flying industrial scale operations in commercial air space hasn’t been achieved before due to the difficultly of ensuring airspace safety without a pilot onboard,” said Sean Greenwood, founder and CEO of Canadian UAVs. “Civil airspace has an extremely low tolerance for risk and without a well delineated Detect and Avoid technology, UAVs have been extremely limited.”
“We have been operating and developing BVLOS technology in Canada for over five years proving our air worthiness and high-level expertise in unmanned systems,” continued Greenwood. “Our company-wide discipline rooted in aviation best practises and incremental value creation, has been repeatedly vindicated by our military and commercial stakeholders. This permit from the Federal airspace regulator is the most significant to date.”
Canadian UAVs states this BVLOS capability is intended to help Canadian businesses monitor and reduce their environmental impact while providing ever-cleaner energy; increasing forestry and agriculture sustainability by monitoring the growth of plants and seeking fire hot spots.
Canadian UAVs will conduct new operations in the oil sands region later this year, working with international energy producers and transportation companies. These operations, explains Canadian UAVs, will demonstrate the economic acquisition of actionable environmental and asset integrity data while pioneering unmanned airmanship.