By Evan Mitsui and Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News
The word “armed” blinks red on the laptop screen as a propeller whirs to life. Soon, the drone rises steadily over a dusty landscape.
But this isn’t Afghanistan – it’s Milton, Ont., where geographer Scott McTavish is using his autonomous aircraft to survey a gravel pit.
McTavish first turned to drones, officially named unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), in 2008, while working for a forestry company in B.C.
“When we started five years ago, there weren’t too many options,” he says, referring to the availability of UAVs and the scaled-down, lightweight components required to keep them aloft.
Now, McTavish runs a company, Accuas Inc., that specializes in aerial surveys and mapping using drones equipped with compact digital cameras. He has a fleet of 10 unmanned aircraft ranging in size from small, multi-rotor helicopters to much larger fixed-wing planes, and employs eight full-time staff in offices across the country. Business is booming.
“Flying a helicopter or a plane isn’t cost effective for a lot of jobs and now it’s not the only choice,” says John Fairs, an aerial survey specialist with Dillon Consulting who is keen to offer this new technology to his clients.
“It’s mind-boggling how quickly this area is growing,” says Fairs. “The applications are endless.”