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

St. Luke Cedar Hill Anglican Church hosts open house, spring cemetery clean up

Learn more about the region’s oldest cemetery May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Victoria television producer makes documentary about opioid crisis

A Just Society includes 30 interviews filmed in Victoria, Duncan and Ladysmith

Re-development of Saanich’s public works yard faces rising costs, divides council

SNC Lavalin could end up earning more than $200,000 for environmental site surveys

More than 2,700 units of affordable homes underway in Greater Victoria

Units part of 20,000 that are underway in B.C.

BREAKING: Court says B.C. can’t restrict oil shipments in key case for Trans Mountain

A five-judge Appeal Court panel agreed unanimously that B.C.’s proposed legislation was not constitutional

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read