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Edmonton Airport welcomes first step towards drone logistics operations

Posted: 7 December 2021 | | No comments yet

Edmonton International Airport has welcomed the first Sparrow drone flight within the airport, helping to pave the way for the future of drone delivery operations in aviation.

Edmonton Airport welcomes first step towards drone logistics operations

Credit: Edmonton International Airport (EIA)

Canada’s first drone delivery operation from within an airport has taken off from Edmonton International Airport (EIA), helping chart a new path for this emerging industry.

A Sparrow drone from Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) successfully flew from the EIA Airport Operations Facility to a site in Leduc County, marking the first time this activity has been approved by NAV CANADA. This logistics operation is a major step towards the future modernisation of supply chains. The Sparrow drone will soon be carrying commercial cargo packages on behalf of clients Ziing Final Mile and Apple Express. Air Canada Cargo is operating as the official agent for DDC.

Airspace around all Canadian airports is highly restricted for safety and any drone activity is forbidden without proper authorisation. EIA and DDC have spent significant months working with NAV CANADA to create new approvals and safety procedures to make this and future flights possible. 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.

“At EIA our mandate is to support economic growth and diversification in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region,” Myron Keehn, Vice-President, Air Service and Business Development, EIA. “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.  Congratulations to all the partners involved in this ground-breaking event and who strive for an innovative future of drone operations.”

“Air Canada Cargo is privileged to be the catalyst for bringing the different parties together for this historic initiative. Drone operations at airports will play a vital role in the future of cargo connectivity. Congratulations to the team at Edmonton International Airport for being true visionaries and to Apple Express and Ziing Final Mile for believing in the future of the drone industry,” added Jason Berry, Vice-President, Air Canada Cargo.

“We are honoured to be working with all parties to bring meaningful value to stakeholders using our patented drone delivery solution,” said Michael Zahra, President & CEO of DDC. “We are entering a unique time in transportation history as we move towards a future that suggests an entirely new landscape of opportunities for the global supply chain. To our knowledge, this is the first drone delivery project at a large-scale international airport anywhere in Canada. As an award-winning global leader, we are pleased with our continued technological and commercial successes in the drone delivery industry.”

“Unlocking the opportunities that come with advanced last-mile delivery systems is essential to meeting our customer expectations well into the future. It’s exciting to partner with Drone Delivery Canada as an early adopter in drone technology and celebrate the next big step in operationalising this innovative transportation method for commercial use,” commented Nasser Syed, CEO Apple Express. “As these shorter flight routes prove successful, we look forward to expanding our transportation network and offering our customers speedy and seamless delivery, especially in the healthcare, technology, aerospace and ecommerce industries where time-critical logistics is a must.”

Example of drone usage

As the technology and safety requirements continue to evolve, possible future usages include:

  • Delivery of high-value and timely medical products
  • Secure transport of sensitive cargo
  • Delivery to remote locations, or locations where vehicle access has been disrupted
  • Using zero-emission drones to conduct final-kilometre delivery services, helping reduce vehicle traffic, and emissions.

Officials in Leduc County have provided tremendous support for the project, helping supply a location in the Pat Wilson Memorial Park within the Nisku business district, as the delivery location from EIA. In the coming months, drivers and residents near the airport may see the Sparrow drone flying across the Queen Elizabeth II Highway between the airport and the secondary landing location in Leduc County. All flights are done with authorisation and co-operation from NAV CANADA.

To ensure public safety, some of the restrictions on the drone flights include that it cannot fly over populated areas, and its flying height is limited. As the project continues to be tested and further safety requirements are met, the goal is conduct longer flights that can become delivery flight paths.

EIA drone facts

Other examples of drone usage at Edmonton International Airport include:

  • First airport to use a robotic falcon ‘Robird’ for wildlife control
  • First airport to have nighttime flights for a drone on an airport
  • Using drones to conduct (LIDAR) radar-style inspections of a runway
  • EIA and Villeneuve Airport support on-site drone development and manufacturing.

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