An Okotoks-based drone company is now able to take the next step in unmanned aviation.
In-Flight Data recently received a one-year certificate from Transport Canada to operate drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) for the purposes of public safety.
This allows drones to fly longer distances without pilots constantly being within sight of the aircraft.
Chris Healy, CEO of In-Flight Data, said the BVLOS certificate will change the way his company provides aerial information to clients.
“It’s going to usher in an era of the ability for us to carry passengers with drones.”
While the certificate covers all of Canada, Healy pointed out there are still a lot of stipulations.
Healy said one example of using BVLOS would be to act as an extra set of eyes for first responders during a natural disaster.
“This gives us the ability to, for example, go and support wildland fire crews,” said Healy. “We can identify where hot spots might be occurring and provide that information to the crew so that they can go put those fires out.”
Other BVLOS flights
In 2019, Transport Canada approved four one-time BVLOS certificates for operators to test their systems.
These included Canada Post and Drone Delivery Canada, with both focused on delivering packages, food, and medical supplies to rural Canada.
Canadian UAV and ING Robotic Aviation were also granted certificates for pipeline and infrastructure surveys.
Alberta’s drone business
Calgary opened the Point Trotter Autonomous Systems Testing Area in 2018, allowing operators to test drones or other autonomous technology.
It’s only one of two UAV testing areas in Canada with restricted airspace, allowing operators to fly without putting anyone else at risk.
As more and more drones take to the skies, Healy said the Calgary area could see a boom in aviation-related business.
“More than 25 per cent of all the operators in Canada are located in southern Alberta,” said Healy.
“This is a huge step forward for the industry in Canada but it’s also a feather in Alberta’s cap.”