Transport Canada (TC) has released an invitation to UAS industry innovators to submit proof-of-concept proposals in a bid to advance drone transport frontiers using beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) concepts. Following the Canadian Government’s 2017 budget commitments to establish pilot projects to evaluate UAS technologies, operators would take part in proof-of-concept trials later this year. Successful submissions to create Concepts of Operation (ConOps) would qualify as one of up to four industry organisations to explore use-cases of BVLOS in order to inform the industry’s development in Canada.
The intent of the trials encompass three objectives: providing Transport Canada with BVLOS experience and data; validation of technologies to allow for future standards in BVLOS operations; and to guide the development of future Canadian BVLOS regulations. Transport Canada also intends in the medium term to permit BVLOS operations through the existing Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) process. In the long term, the creation of evidence-based regulatory requirements will allow UAS to safely integrate into manned airspace.
In 2017 an Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft imposed strict regulations on the flight of recreational drones, with a fine of $3,000 for operators who broke the rules. To fly a drone for commercial purposes, the SFOC was introduced. This certificate allows a drone to be flown under special conditions for purposes such as survey, agricultural, inspections, academic research, police work and photographic and videographic purposes such as real estate. Introduction of BVLOS regulations would expand the use of commercial and industrial drone applications.
Possible UAS industry use-case scenarios to include BVLOS capabilities could include applications such as delivery to remote communities, highway safety analysis, pipeline and utility surveying or airspace integration and traffic management. UAV delivery company Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) is already exploring BVLOS in it’s cargo delivery drone trials after successfully gaining SFOC Compliant status late last year. Successful BVLOS flights in Foremost, Alberta last December have now been extended into the USA, with DDC announcing the conduct of their commercial testing program at the New York Griffiss International Airport UAS Test Site, located in Rome.
The Transport Canada BVLOS proof-of-concept trial applications must address four principles including Safety and Risk Management, Innovation, Collaboration and Standardization and Quality Assurance. Collaboration through supply-chain networks, research groups and consortiums to enrich innovation and validate data across a wide spectrum. While increased risks associated with the exploration of BVLOS operations will be recognised by the UAS Task Force, on-site TC employees will ensure risk mitigation strategies are compliant with the current SFOC conditions. Successful proof-of-concept trial applicants are required to be responsible for safe management of their operations in the field, and must produce at the end of the trial a public document reporting on the results of their trial.
Applications close in one month on the 5th of March, 2018. For further information interested parties can visit Transport Canada.