North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton

UVic to develop drone aircraft for civilian use

Jenner Richards foresees a not-so-distant future where any farmer in Greater Victoria could send an unmanned aircraft into the air

Jenner Richards foresees a not-so-distant future where any farmer in Greater Victoria could send an unmanned aircraft into the air – whenever they want – to check on the health of their crops.

“The special cameras (on the aircraft) can tell you whether it’s getting enough water, whether it’s stressed out, whether it’s healthy; and by looking at that you can optimize where (crops are) worth planting, where it’s not worth planting, where you should harvest first,” says Richards, manager of the University of Victoria’s new Centre for Aerospace Research.

The small centre, located north of the Victoria International Airport, will become a site for students to research and develop unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology to make it commercially accessible and available to civilians.

“We will be looking at the airplane design, the electronics, avionics, we’re talking about propulsion, payload, how to do the processing of the data. All these things will be part of this program,” says Afzal Suleman, an aerospace engineer and chair of UVic’s Aerospace Centre. “The idea is to create better (UAVs). We’re talking smaller ones, but also (UAVs that have) lighter environmental footprints.”

On Friday, North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton, on behalf of Western Economic Diversification, announced $671,500 in funding for the centre.

Richards says there’s currently a huge gap in supplies in the UAV sector – there’s little offered between million-dollar military drones and pieced-together hobby shop airplanes.

“We’re trying to fill this huge market in the centre with something that’s cost-effective, still reliable and can be easily operated,” Richards says.

And the potential commercial uses don’t just stop at farmers monitoring crops. UAVs could be used for forest fire patrols, coast guard surveillance, port security, border patrol, avalanche prevention, wildlife preservation and management, and pipeline patrols.

“Over the past decade, unmanned air vehicles and unmanned air systems have shown tremendous commercial potential,” Saxton says.”They can provide a cost-effective solution for tasks that are repetitive, hazardous, or that needs to be performed on short notice.”

UAVs vary in size, with wingspans ranging from 50 centimetres to 3 metres. A UAV can fly for up to 30 hours with a high-resolution camera affixed to the undercarriage, and follows a pre-determined route, directed a nearby mobile control centre.

When the UAVs are at a stage for commercial use, Suleman said clients would rent or lease the aircraft, but they’d gather data and be operated by trained engineers.

Richards says the federal government’s investment will allow UVic to be at the forefront of this embryonic technology. Ultimately the Centre for Aerospace Research intends to produce prototypes for commercial and research purposes and UVic’s Industry Partnerships will help the centre file patents for inventions, and create UAV licensing agreements.

“We are really looking to bring more people in from different areas, … bring all those people together and design products that are tailored to the specific applications, like agriculture monitoring,” he says.

editor@peninsulanewsreview.com

 

Just Posted

Sidney bank robbery suspect also sought in connect to Abbotsford robbery

Lucas Daryl Bradwell, 28, is known to frequent the Lower Mainland but is believed to be on Vancouver Island

More ideas come forward for Victoria’s Centennial Square

Ideas from over 1,400 residents are being presented to council

RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

Police believe crime an isolated incident

Greater Victoria group helps low-income, at-risk seniors stay safe

Victoria chapter of 100+ Women Who Care donate $30,300 to Eldercare Foundation

VIDEO: Dashcam video captures moment Victoria cyclist struck

Police seeking cyclist captured in video

Nine kittens and cats rescued after being locked in bins in northern B.C.: SPCA

SPCA says cats were starving, and matted with feces and urine

High-speed rail link would run from Vancouver to Seattle in under 1 hour: study

Annual ridership is projected to exceed three million

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

U.S. tug firm to be sentenced for 2016 spill in B.C. First Nation’s territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

Asylum figures show overall slower rate of irregular crossings into Canada

Between January and June 2019, a total of 6,707 asylum seekers crossed irregularly into Canada

Wolves not gnawing into Island’s prey population

Forestry practices, not predation, blamed for reduced numbers in prey animals

Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

Most Read