Advanced Drone Operations Over People a First for Canadian Airports

IN-FLIGHT Data, a Canadian leader in advanced drone operations, in concert with senseFly – the global leader in fixed-wing drones, local geomatics experts Benchmark Geomatics, and the Okotoks Air Ranch Airport successfully teamed up for a first at a Canadian airport: conducting a midday, GNSS RTK drone survey of the airport and surrounding residential community, over top of people not part of the operation and while manned aircraft were taking off, landing, and entering the aerodrome circuit. There were no NOTAM’s filed, and there were no runways closed, as part of the operation.

This high-accuracy survey was conducted as the busy suburban airport performs multiple surveys and assessments to prepare for possible future construction and expansion plans. This was the first time this type of advanced drone operation at an airport has been permitted in Canada under the Part 9 regulations.

The drone (or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System – RPAS), used high-resolution aerial payloads and highly-accurate survey technologies to produce a very accurate 3D model of the entire residential community and airport property so that future construction professionals can assess plans and designs. The aircraft used for the survey was the eBee Plus, one of only a handful of fixed-wing aircraft certified for Operations-Over-People in Canada. The payload used for the survey was the senseFly S.O.D.A with 1-inch CMOS sensor. This combination of aerial equipment was a natural selection for the project, due to its advanced Transport Canada drone certifications, and pedigree within geomatics/survey community as a trusted platform for accuracy, precision and reliability.

“We are excited to showcase the capability of the aircraft and of our Advanced Elite Operations Team,” says Chris Healy from IN-FLIGHT Data. This project, unprecedented in Canadian aviation history, successfully demonstrated that this combination of aircraft, operating procedures, and crew can perform at the highest levels and compete with other survey groups and companies, using land-based and other types of survey technologies. “Having the senseFly eBee Plus was the preferred choice for us, since it meets Transport Canada’s high standard for drone aircraft certified for flights over people, and in controlled airspace. It was dream to fly and utilizing the advanced technologies on-board, such as the flight planning software eMotion, and integrated airspace intelligence and UTM awareness and uAvionix Corporation ADSB data, helped give everyone an increased confidence that we could manage the airspace responsibly, safely, efficiently, and within the boundaries of the new Part 9 Canadian Aviation Regulations.”

Balint Madar, Airport Manager for Okotoks Air Ranch, agrees, “It was a pleasure doing this survey with IN-FLIGHT Data. The professionalism was far beyond what we expected. It was great to see the coordination and professionalism on an active airport such as that day. Having multiple airplanes coming in and going out, the team was on top of procedures, communications and most importantly, safety. Keep up the good work and keep pushing the limits and building this new type of aviation sector, we look forward to continuing our work on this and other important airport projects.”