Centre for Innovation and Research
in Unmanned Systems

Mastering drone evolution

At the Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems (CIRUS), our mission is to expand the role unmanned systems play in data acquisition and management and create organizational efficiencies across various sectors and regulatory environments. 

We aim to address industry challenges in four main areas:

  • innovative applications of unmanned vehicles
  • sensors and related equipment
  • application and customization
  • validation and integration of data products derived from unmanned systems. 

Using cutting-edge applied research, we take a collaborative approach to addressing these challenges, improving technology, and developing and testing new products and their applications.

Our research, while focused on the sky, also includes a variety of groundwork using surface and submersible platforms and sensors. 

As a leading remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) research centre and a key supplier of placing highly qualified personnel into the industry - CIRUS also provides students with the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology, directly related to the rapidly expanding RPAS industry in Alberta, Canada, and worldwide.


Canada’s first remotely-piloted aviation training centre

In April 2023, SAIT announced the launch of Canada’s first remotely-piloted aviation training centre, which will specifically focus on training, certification, research and development for heavy-lift and beyond-visual-line-of-sight Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

Learn more about our RPAS training centre

Our fleet

The CIRUS team is equipped with the most advanced Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) and airborne sensors, survey gear, data processing and modelling software. Some of our RPAS systems and airborne sensors are the only ones in North America, which has made CIRUS the most advanced RPAS R&D center in North America.

Anavia HT-100 Switzerland

See our heavy lift unmanned aircraft

DJI M600 series

See our DJI Mavic drones

Wingtra WingtraOne Gen II Switzerland drone

Wingtra One Gen II Switzerland

See our airborne sensors

Here's what we can offer you

At CIRUS, we use our wide range of skills and experience to develop solutions for client-specific challenges both within Canada and internationally. 


No two clients have exactly the same problem to be solved, and each job requires a unique approach. 

Whether it's a custom mounting system - such as the one we developed for NASA's OPLS methane detector - or developing optimal workflows for use in an active mine environment, CIRUS tailors solutions to address specific industry challenges.

Unmanned vehicles, sensors and related equipment 

Common uses of UAS - such as surveying and mapping - are often the starting point for longer-term industry collaborations when partnering companies see the potential for unmanned systems to impact their bottom line.

Advanced sensors, including hyperspectral imagers, allow us to monitor the health of vegetation, while ground-penetrating radar is used in subsurface mapping and geological applications.

We're developing unique applications of UAS for methane detection to carry out surveys of oil and gas installations, such as along pipelines.

Validation and integration of data 

As a new technology, unmanned systems currently lack well-defined standards and protocols. Because of this, we are setting our own rigorous standards. Data collection starts with matching the best product to the problem - giving clients information which can be readily incorporated into their workflow.

Our service includes validating data quality, and providing information our clients can rely on.

A lot of what we do at CIRUS is cutting edge and research-focused, and we take what we learn and share it with instructors in the program. For example, the procedures to detect wildlife or lost persons using a drone-mounted thermal sensor.

Wade Hawkins
CIRUS Team Lead


At CIRUS, we're helping to expand the role unmanned systems play in data acquisition and management and create organizational efficiencies across various sectors and regulatory environments.

Working with our partners, we're addressing challenges, create efficiencies, and developing and testing new products and applications across a variety of industries. 

CIRUS + Imperial

SAIT partnered with Imperial to help implement unmanned systems at Imperial's Kearl site in northern Alberta. 

Watch the video to see how this collaboration leads the way in how unmanned systems can be used regularly to collect photography and supporting data to inform Imperial's Geoscience team on the site's geology while improving safety, sustainability, and operational efficiencies.

Delivering medical supplies to remote communities

Researchers at the University of Calgary, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) are partnering with the Stoney Nakoda Nations (SNN) to deliver medical equipment and test kits for COVID-19 to remote areas, and to connect these communities to laboratories more quickly using these remotely piloted aircraft.

Precision Cattle Ranching 

With the use of UAV technology, thermal and RGB cameras, an RFID reader and LIDAR unit, cattle ranchers will be able to track their cattle from a remote location automatically. By identifying animals and reading their tags quickly, the data transferred is instantaneous and reduces time spent manually tracking individual animals.

Man in boardroom

Do you have a project in mind?

Whether you're starting with an idea or an early design concept, we want to learn more. Our commitment is to provide exceptional value to our partners, staying mindful of budget constraints while actively pursuing funding opportunities on your behalf. Let's talk ideas and numbers.

CIRUS team

Our research team

The expertise available through CIRUS is diverse, with all researchers and faculty contributing their unique skills and experiences. SAIT also engages several of Alberta's leading colleges, allowing us to draw on an even greater pool of expertise when needed.

A hub of innovation

The ARIS research and innovation hub brings together researchers, innovators, industry and students to develop skills and collaborate. Join the network now. 

Contact us

Applied Research and Innovation Services

a view of the moutains and stream in between

Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.