New drone testing site takes flight in Calgary

New drone testing site takes off in city of Calgary
WATCH: Calgary businesses, industry and researchers have a new area to test drones, autonomous vehicles or the next big innovation. Tomasia DaSilva explains why it's such a big deal for companies and all Calgarians.

The City of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development have launched a new area to test drones, autonomous vehicles or the next big innovation.

The new Point Trotter Autonomous Systems Testing Area will allow qualified businesses, industry and researchers to test their drones or other autonomous technology for a fee of $250 per week or $500 for a maximum of six months.

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Unmanned aerial vehicle — or UAV — operators and providers in Calgary said this is a game-changer.

AERIUM Analytics said the new site opens up major opportunities.

“The proximity to our office makes getting pilots out to train, put in the hours they need to get proficient with this a lot easier,” vice-president corporate and business development Tim Bibby said.

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Another Calgary-based company, IN-FLIGHT Data, agreed.

“This is a massive deal — this is a big opportunity, not only for us but for all of Calgary,” owner Chris Healy said.

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“To have a place where organizations, qualified organizations such as us, can come out to a testing range inside a major metropolitan area to do drone testing is unlike anywhere else in North America.”

City officials said this testing site will make Calgary one of the first major cities in North America to offer airspace for the mass testing of commercial drones on city-owned land.

Economic leaders hope this will show the world Calgary is about more than just oil and gas.

“Energy will always be our backbone but we are more than that,” business development manager of transportation and logistics Patti Dunlop said.

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“Calgary is diversified, we’re creating tons of new technology here and we want to be known for that. As we keep creating these test sites for different types of technology, this is where you need to be.”

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In the past, Calgary companies tested their UAV technology at the Shepard Landfill site, but they were only allowed to do so on Mondays when the landfill was closed to the public.

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The city says the airspace there became too crowded as more companies embraced technology.

The new testing site at Point Trotter is now officially open for business.