Toronto tech startup to test drone flight paths above Waterloo region

Toronto base tech start-up AirMatrix is in Waterloo region this month collecting data and information to develop the "road infrastructure" for safer drone use in cities and for businesses.

AirMatrix co-founder says Waterloo region provides an ideal environment for their first flight tests

AirMatrix worked with different delivery scenarios and had the drone travel to residential homes and then travel a longer route to a long-term home facility. (Submitted by: AirMatrix)

Waterloo region is lending its skies to a Toronto-based tech start up working to map out the "road infrastructure" for cities and businesses to use drones safely in the future.

AirMatrix co-founder Alexandra McCalla and her colleagues have been working on the concept for the past two years and recently had their first autonomous flight test in a live urban environment earlier this month.

"It was a great demonstration of how our grid can be used in a live ecosystem and it's setting the base for the additional [drone] use cases that we'll continue to add," McCalla told CBC News.

The Region of Waterloo put out a notice on its website saying there may be more drone activity in the Kitchener area this month.

McCalla said they are working with Transport Canada on this project and have several other flight tests scheduled in the region for early November.

From left to right: Shayaan Haider, Ayaan Haider, Alexandra McCalla, and Bashir Khan. McCalla said she and her colleagues have been working on mapping flight routes for drone use over the past two years. (Submitted by: AirMatrix)

She said during the first test in downtown Kitchener on Oct. 9, the team worked with different delivery scenarios and emergency protocols with the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and Hogan Pharmacy.

The drone travelled to residential homes and then travelled a longer route to a long-term home facility, McCalla said.

The team gathered information around the flight duration, drone health and whether it made it to its destination.

"Because we build out precise skyways, we did data collection on the ground for the grid that we set up for downtown Kitchener," she said.

"Then we look at how that performed in relation to what we had simulated and really look at the process in how we want to continue to improve."

Region provides an ideal test environment

McCalla said Waterloo region is an ideal area to do these tests because it has a good mix of buildings, residential areas and an airport.

"It has a great mix of different environments, urban, more rural and an airport environment that makes trialling different drone protocols perfect," she said.

Though the region is not currently looking to map out a grid for drone use, Matthew Chandy, manager of economic development for the Region of Waterloo, said the region supports the project.

"For information purposes, we're interested in what comes out of it," he said.

"Given our interest in supporting startups and our interest in looking at smart technologies, we're supporting it from that perspective."


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