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

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Saanich’s Keating Elementary completes seismic upgrades

Sidney Elementary and North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary still waiting for seismic upgrades

Langford ranks as fastest growing community in B.C.

Westshore community grew by 5.2 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018

Highlands councillor designs ‘carbon budget’ for CRD municipalities

Budget shows how much carbon left for each municipality to use to meet climate goals

Traffic delays: Saturday work added to Highway 1 construction schedule

Work continues on dangerous stretch between Leigh Road and West Shore Parkway

VIDEO: James Bay wolf released into wild of western Vancouver Island

Conservation officers confirm wolf is from Discovery Island

VIDEO: Driver guilty in Saanich crash that left 11-year-old with catastrophic brain injuries

North Saanich woman convicted on one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Taxi association asks B.C. Supreme Court to stop Uber, Lyft from operating

Petition alleges Passenger Transportation Board did not take taxis into account

Majority of Canadian boards had no female members in 2016 and 2017: StatCan

Statistics Canada says 18.1 per cent of director seats were held by women in 2017

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Filming for Resident Alien begins in Ladysmith

Aliens and excitement take over the streets of Ladysmith during new TV series

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

Most Read