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eVTOLs, Flying Cars, and Urban Air Mobility Are Coming to Canada

Transport Canada Tells Us How UAM Will Integrate into the Great White North

Transport Canada is working across government agencies to create a framework for the evolution of UAM/AAM in Canada.
Transport Canada is working across government agencies to create a framework for the evolution of UAM/AAM in Canada.

With 3.86 million square miles (about 9.98 million square kilometers), Canada, as the world’s second largest country by total area, has a lot of ground to cover. Its 10 provinces and three territories are home to densely populated metropolises and remote regions populated by indigenous peoples.

UAM (aka AAM) will help Canadians enhance urban mobility, improve telecommunications across the land, and connect intra-urban and remote communities delivering mail, medical supplies, and cargo.

Transport Canada is the regulator for Canada’s civil aviation system. Felix Meunier is Transport Canada’s director of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and, along with his colleagues at the agency, is responsible for the integration and implementation of UAM/AAM into Canadians’ daily lives.

First, A Framework for UAM

Meunier explains Transport Canada is developing a “nimble regulatory framework” by working with industry and government stakeholders to accommodate a range of operations, including:

  • A regulatory framework for small RPAS operated within visual line-of-sight
  • Special Flight Operations Certificates (SFOCs) that allow experimental operations, and higher risk beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations
  • Aircraft certification categories that establish and regulate standards for both aircraft and aeronautical products in specialized and technical fields

The agency’s mandate is to ensure safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation. It does so with other national aviation regulators, such as the US’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), ASTM International, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Joint Authority for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems, and the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics.

Canada’s Aeronautics Act (AA) provides the tools and frameworks for UAM/AAM to evolve, while the Department of National Defence will oversee UAM/AAM integration into military applications.

A Cross-Agency Approach to UAM in Canada

In 2017, Meunier explains, “Transport Canada began working with The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the County of Renfrew Paramedic Service on pilot projects to explore how remotely piloted aircraft systems could be used in search and rescue and to supplement emergency response.”

Since that time, he adds, “These organizations have graduated to routine BVLOS operations authorized through special flight operations certificates and remotely piloted aircraft systems that have become key parts of their public safety missions.”

This is part of Transport Canada’s phased approach to the implementation of new regulations, which currently targets the prepublication of BVLOS regulations for 2021.

By 2018, Transport Canada selected partners in industry for BVLOS drone trials for oil and gas surveys and delivery services to rural and remote areas populated by First Nation and Indigenous communities. Three organizations have operated trials since 2018:

  • Canada Post explored the deployment of drones in Canada’s remote and rural regions.
  • Canadian UAVs conducted a long-range pipeline survey in Western Alberta to prove the feasibility and capability of using a ground-based radar system.
  • Drone Delivery Canada explored using drones for the safe delivery of food and medical services in Moosonee, Ontario.

Meunier explains that Transport Canada recognizes the deployment of AAM systems in urban areas is expected to have a dramatic influence on both mobility in cities and on the urban landscape.

“The introduction of a new technology like AAM into an established system and community brings a variety of socio-economic implications,” he says. This ranges from increased noise, changing traffic patterns across modes, potentially increased congestion, influencing land-use zoning, and how to ensure equitable access for all income classes and demographic groups.

Cold Comfort for UAM Operators in Canada

To foster innovation, Transport Canada has provided test ranges for UAM and drone aircraft and aided research and development opportunities while establishing priorities for the industry as it grows. The National Research Council, along with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, are supplementing the initiatives with funding as well.

Canada’s often brutally cold winters have National Research Council working with international partners to understand the impact cold weather will have on UAM/AAM, Meunier relates. Specifically, with many UAM aircraft expected to be eVTOLs, and batteries not being particularly compatible with temperatures at, or below, freezing, Transport Canada will need to find ways to cope if AAM is to take off in a meaningful way year-round in Canada. Transport Canada’s objective is to ensure there is a framework which provides a means for RPAS and AAM operators to succeed. Industry innovators are identifying technologies and measures to adapt to, and cope with, the Canadian climate.

Meunier explains that Transport Canada, working with NAV CANADA, Canada’s non-profit civil air navigation service provider, is also working on developing infrastructure, such as vertiports and electric power grids, along with modified in-flight oversight services, such as air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) to ensure the airspace is safe when AAM is available for the general public.

While Transport Canada regulates the safety of aircraft and airspace in Canada, NAV CANADA is the national not-for-profit civil air navigation service provider, which coordinates aircraft movements in controlled airspace, and provides air traffic control services for aviation. Together, they envision a seamless aviation system providing everything from mail delivery to food delivery, medical services to cargo services, and fast, reliable, safe transportation across the Canadian landscape.

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Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.