Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo-based Aeryon Labs to help map Fort McMurray wildfire

A company based in Waterloo, Ont., says it has received approval to provide drone assistance in mapping out the fire-ravaged regions of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Ventus Geospatial gets approval to fly unmanned aerial vehicles to survey damage, company says

The Aeryon SkyRanger is controlled by a single operator and can fly for up to 50 minutes, according to the company. (Aeryon Labs)

A company based in Waterloo, Ont., says it has received approval to provide drone assistance in mapping out the fire-ravaged regions of Fort McMurray, Alta. 

On Tuesday, Aeryon Labs wrote on its website that Calgary-based Ventus Geospatial was given an emergency complex restricted special flight operations certificate (SFOC) by Transport Canada in order to operate the unmanned aircraft over the areas affected by wildfire, which is currently restricted airspace. 

The Aeryon SkyRanger will be used for a limited period during operations, the company said, adding Ventus has been using Canadian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) since 2011. The SkyRanger is controlled by a single operator and can fly for up to 50 minutes, according to the company.

"The fire around Fort McMurray has affected in excess of 220,000 hectares. Using high resolution geolocated imagery and thermal infrared sensors, the team at Ventus have been approved to use the SkyRanger to co-ordinate with and assess forest fighting efforts," the company said. 

The municipality located in northern Alberta, 434 kilometres north of Edmonton, has been devastated by a wildfire that became out of control. Advisories about the blaze were first issued on May 1. Since then, more than 80,000 people have left Fort McMurray, which is currently under a mandatory evacuation

This is not the first time Ontario-made UAVs have been used in damage assessments following a natural disaster. Last month, Aeryon Labs provided a drone to map areas damaged by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador. In those operations, the vehicle's pilot was trained in Kitchener by the Clarion Drone Academy. 

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