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Exploring new skies

Unmanned aerial vehicle testing area opens beside Crane and Ironworker facility

Unmanned aerial vehicle testing area opens beside Crane and Ironworker facility

Innovation took to the skies Friday, Oct. 19 at the unveiling of the Point Trotter Autonomous Systems Testing Area (ASTA) — a 125-acre space for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) testing.

SAIT will use the airspace to further explore the applications and capabilities of unmanned systems. Furthermore, Point Trotter ASTA provides an additional area for students to train with drone technology — helping position SAIT as a leader in UAV education.

"Through SAIT's School of Transportation, we offer Unmanned Aircraft — Professional Operations and Planning and Professional Flight School programs," says Jim Szautner, Dean, School of Manufacturing and Automation and School of Transportation.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi was joined by Szautner and Doug Cassidy, director of Real Estate & Development Services at The City of Calgary for the announcement at SAIT's Crane and Ironworker Facility — located next door to the new testing site.

Along with representatives from AERIUM Analytics and IN-FLIGHT Data, researchers from SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) gave a UAV demonstration with multiple types of drones.

Continuing to soar

SAIT is firmly entrenched in the UAV research space thanks to the work at the Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems (CIRUS). CIRUS has been working on numerous UAV research projects related to search and rescue, 3-D mapping and a unique venture with NASA.

"There is demand from oil and gas companies for technology to measure methane emissions at their facilities," says Szautner. "SAIT, through CIRUS, has joined forces with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a novel research project that combines the unique capabilities of UAVs with the methane detecting capabilities of NASA's Open Path Laser Spectrometer."

Having more airspace from the city will be beneficial to SAIT's UAV research, he adds.

"The addition of this new Unmanned Systems Test Site will aid in SAIT's applied research activities as we continue to advance technology, transfer innovation into the classroom, and provide the highly-qualified, skilled personnel that industry requires."

Space to grow

The new testing site is part of the Living Lab strategy — a collaboration between The City of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development to provide technological testing areas on public land and transportation corridors.

SAIT was in on the ground floor of the initiative as the first organization to utilize a living lab - located at the Shephard Landfill — for drone testing. SAIT's flight tests went well, so the city opened the space up to more organizations.

CIRUS UAV work at the Shepard Landfill was featured on CBC Calgary over the summer. Working with aerospace company Lockheed Martin, SAIT has been using drones to make a 3-D map of the landfill.

Point Trotter builds on the initial success of the first testing site.

"Point Trotter Autonomous Systems Testing Area is a great example of how The City of Calgary is working with our community partners to support innovation," says Mayor Nenshi. "We're committed to supporting investment in our economy and making Calgary more innovative and business friendly."

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