Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) can, and will, modernize air mobility. But when will this happen? Sooner than later, because AAM is already happening.
Drone Delivery Canada and Edmonton International Airport
In December 2021, Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) and Edmonton International Airport (EIA) completed a successful test flight. The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)—more commonly known as “drone”—Sparrow flew from EIA to Leduc County, AB. It was the first time Nav Canada approved such a flight.
Myron Keehn, vice-president of air service and business development at Edmonton International Airport (EIA), stated the following about the integration, “At EIA, our mandate is to support economic growth and diversification in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Our national leadership in integrating drone technologies at an airport is giving birth to a new sector in drone logistics. The integration of these sustainable technologies is the precursor to the enablement of advanced air mobility, and it lowers barriers for the movement of goods and in the future, people.”
“This logistics operation is a major step towards the future modernization of supply chains […] These initial flights will create the template for future operations that could include deliveries into populated areas, such as Edmonton or other major centres, as well as Indigenous communities and Northern communities,” stated EIA in a news release.
The Sparrow will carry commercial cargo packages on behalf of clients Ziing Final Mile and Apple Express. Air Canada Cargo operates as the official agent for DDC.
The DDC and EIA cooperation is precious to AAM not only because it represents the modernization of supply chains while also serving as a roadmap but also because it’s AAM entering one of the most restrictive and dangerous places: airports.
Airports represent a safety challenge for AAM, and many believe that the best way to avoid accidents is geofencing airports. But with each flight, DDC and EIA prove that there’s no need to separate traditional air mobility and AAM—with safety procedures in place, they can coexist.
Drone Delivery Canada and University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia’s Drone Transport Initiative program aims to deploy drone technology to fly health care supplies into rural and remote communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UBC and DDC partnered up with Stellat’en First Nation. The program will enable defined-route deliveries utilizing DDC’s Sparrow and its DroneSpot® takeoff and landing zones.
“Our commercial operating model involves depot-to-depot flights on pre-determined routes with the required depot infrastructure in place,” explained Michael Zahra, President & CEO, DDC. “We call these depots DroneSpots®, and it means that drones operate autonomously while our proprietary FLYTE software monitors air traffic, weather, aircraft, and other elements along the way. With safety at the forefront of all operations, our drone logistics system is designed with multiple redundancies, and all flights are overseen from our Operations Control Centre in Toronto, Canada—monitored 24/7.”
And like with EIA, DDC will face a challenge when flying from depot to depot; as Zahra explains, “There are a couple of aerodromes around the Fraser Lake area, so I wouldn’t assume it’s not a crowded airspace just because it’s isolated. […] All fights will be conducted under 400 ft and in accordance with regulations.”
Whether flying from inside an airport or passing by aerodromes, DDC is building and collecting data that the industry will use to create the future. And the company is doing that while also improving the speed and quality of deliveries, “Based on the isolated location of our community and the needs of our residents, drone transport may enhance our access to COVID-19 testing and medication without traveling and endangering other members of our community,” said Chief Robert Michell of the Stellat’en First Nation. “The futuristic potential of this initiative is exciting. With drone technology, there is so much you can do.”
By Giovani Izidorio Cesconetto