Nunavut drone company prepares to take flight

A new startup company in Iqaluit is planning to take to the skies using unmanned aerial vehicles — better known as drones.

'We think that the potential is very very large,' says Arctic UAV

An image of Glenn Williams, Chief of Operations at Arctic UAV, captured by one of the company's drones. (Arctic UAV)

A new startup company in Iqaluit is planning to take to the skies using unmanned aerial vehicles — better known as drones.

Drones have become popular among amateur photographers and tourist groups in Nunavut, but Arctic UAV says the technology can do more than capture beautiful images. It's hoping to use drones equipped with infrared and thermal cameras for applications like surveying, mapping, research and even search and rescue operations.

"We're hoping to open up a whole new market and service that isn't available right now in Nunavut," said Glenn Williams, Arctic UAV's chief of operations.

The drones that Arctic UAV is intending to use are designed for industrial use and capable of carrying heavier specialized cameras than hobby drones. Some can fly up to 20 hours.

An image taken by ING Robotic Aviation's Responder drone on board the MV Arctic in February. (ING Robotic Aviation)
Some of the UAVs can also fly beyond line of sight — a feature that requires Transport Canada licensing, which the company has secured.

"You have to demonstrate that it's safe," said Williams. "That you're not going to endanger other aircraft, or people or property."

Arctic UAV has partnered with Ontario-based ING Robotic, a company that specializes in using drones for commercial applications in oil and gas exploration, mining, and commercial agriculture.

An ING Robotic drone was even used to assist the MV Arctic icebreaker plot a course through the ice near Deception Bay in Nunavik.

"We see a real opportunity here for emerging businesses," said Williams at the Nunavut Mining Symposium, which took place this week in Iqaluit.

'We’re hoping to open up a whole new market and service that isn't available right now in Nunavut,' said Williams. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
The company has already had a half dozen inquiries from companies interested in their services, according to Williams, and hopes to execute their first contract this summer.

Williams said Arctic UAV will be looking to hire pilots, technicians, and data managers capable of processing their videos, photos and dates — jobs that they hope will go to people living in Nunavut.

Transport Canada safety guidelines for drones:

Transport Canada is currently working on updating aviation safety requirements for drones.

Recreational users do not require an Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) to fly unless their drone weighs more than 35 kg. However, Transport Canada says they should follow their safety guidelines, including:

  • Staying at least 9 km away from any airport, aerodrome or heliport.
  • Only flying during the day and in good (clear) weather.
  • Not flying closer than 150 m to people, vehicles, animals, and buildings.
  • Not flying over crowds (such as sporting events, festivals or concerts).
  • Not flying higher than 90m (about the height of a 30-storey building).

With files from Elyse Skura, Michael Salomonie

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