The lead researcher with a Hamilton regional hub advancing drone technology says a three-year pilot program with Transport Canada will provide valuable space to fly sophisticated remotely piloted systems.
Mohawk College‘s Richard Borger says the memorandum of understanding with the country’s governing body will see the two work together on research projects related to the unmanned aircraft.
The first part of the agreement will see the Windermere Basin beside Eastport Drive open up for flight training and research of new innovations managed by the Unmanned and Remote Sensing Innovation Centre (URSIC).
“We’re able to actually conduct drone pilot training now down at of site in uncontrolled airspace, and we’re able to actually welcome a number of innovators from across the country as we test and validate their platforms at this new drone testing site,” Borger told 900 CHML’s Hamilton Today.
Borger adds that Windermere was selected because of its proximity to highways, waterways and industrial lands, and due to its designation as an uncontrolled airspace.
The secure location eliminates incursions into the site, allowing for no surprises when running equipment in a beta phase or training with a new pilot.
“It gives us a nice quiet space to go out and play, practise, learn and validate and test new equipment as it comes to market,” added Borger.
He says the college’s location on the Mountain is not practical for studies since it’s “firmly” in government-controlled airspace zones due to its proximity to the Hamilton International Airport.
Part two of the agreement will see the college work with new inventions needing Transport Canada’s approval as they start coming to market.
“We just finished a project with a local company called Sky Gage that makes a drone that can actually conduct ultrasonic inspections on tanks or any metal structure,” Borger said.
Transport Canada’s Mark Robbins said the agreement will have major benefits for the agency’s research and development arm.
“We’re focused on testing new and emerging technologies in the transportation space,” said Robbins.
“As well, when we see something new and exciting coming out, we want to understand exactly how it’s going to work so that we can regulate it from safety and effectiveness.”
Mohawk College offers basic drone licensing courses to anyone interested in flying drones over 250 grams in weight.
The civil engineering program also teaches surveying and land mapping as well as instructional design, featuring inspection or structural analysis of buildings using drones.
URSIC currently undertakes the research and testing of industrial-grade robotics and drones with a number of organizations associated with transportation infrastructure, including the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority, the City of Hamilton and local railways.