Recent development in drone delivery commercialization in Canada

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On December 15, 2017, Toronto-based technology company Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) announced that Transport Canada has accepted the company’s declaration of compliance for the X1000 Sparrow (Sparrow). The Sparrow is a cargo delivery drone, and the first of its kind to be accepted under Transport Canada’s program for compliant unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The news represents a step forward in the provision of commercial drone delivery services in Canada.

As reported in an earlier blog post, DDC has plans in motion to launch the first commercial drone delivery service in Canada. Currently in its test phase, the pilot program will deliver food, mail and medical supplies via drones to the remote Moose Cree First Nation Community situated in Northern Ontario.

A Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) is required to operate a drone that weighs more than 35 kg, or is used for work or research, unless exempt under Transport Canada rules. A compliant UAS, or drone, is the first of three regulatory components to Transport Canada’s UAS compliance program, and mandatory for a SFOC. DDC expects to obtain the balance of the three approvals for becoming a Transport Canada compliant UAS operator in early 2018.

“Achieving Compliant UAV Status is the first of three very critical steps in DDC achieving its Compliant Operator Status Certificate. We anticipate obtaining the balance of the approvals in early Q1 2018,” said Tony Di Benedetto, CEO of DDC.

A compliant UAS is also the first requirement for permission to conduct “beyond visual line-of-sight” (BVLOS) operations. BVLOS capabilities are essential for the commercialization of drone delivery, as it allows an operator to pilot a drone beyond its visual range.

During recent research and development flights, according to DDC, the Sparrow has demonstrated a history of safe operation in some of the harshest environmental conditions in Canada’s northern regions. According to MacLean’s, the Sparrow is capable of carrying approximately 4.5 kg of goods on a 10 km trip, in around five minutes.

This article was co-authored by Caitlin Choi, an articling student in the Toronto office.