News / Calgary

Calgary business wants drones included in city's autonomous strategy

The city hopes to attracted tech developers working on autonomous vehicles by allowing testing

Although Calgary wants to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, but some of that same wayfinding technology is used by drones, which are not included substantially in the city’s latest report.

jEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP

Although Calgary wants to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, but some of that same wayfinding technology is used by drones, which are not included substantially in the city’s latest report.

Calgary is trying to position itself as a national leader in autonomous car testing and development, but a local company in the field is reminding councillors not to forget about the skies.

On Friday, the city’s Transportation and Transit committee received a detailed report on how the city will be pushing the provincial government to pass legislation that will allow the city to become an autonomous vehicle testing zone.

The city and Calgary Economic Development also plan on working together so companies that want to begin testing in the city will have a single point of contact — just as it’s currently done in the film industry.

During the discussion, John Molberg of CDL Systems — a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin — spoke to the committee about the work they’re doing on unmanned vehicles.

“We exclusively work with unmanned systems — that’s all we do,” said Molberg.

However his company is primarily concerned with flying vehicles, and specifically drones.

He said the city’s focus on opening its roads to testing is good for the industry overall, but won’t be of immediate benefit to his company.

“What I’m interested in is having a method by which to access public lands for drone operations,” he said.

He said Transport Canada’s rapidly evolving regulations require commercial drones to operate at a certain distance from the public. That means most of the city is excluded.

Drones have many potential commercial applications. Companies such as Amazon have suggested drones could be used in cities to deliver packages.

Molberg said his message was well received and he’s glad that the city has taken an interest in the possibilities of unmanned and autonomous technology.

“We’ve been here 25 years and this is the first time the city has talked to us. So we’re just happy someone in the city is asking questions.”

The report to council notes that there are 17,000 people at 2,300 companies in the city working in the field of geomatics — digital mapping and surveying — which will be an important part of autonomous vehicles.

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