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Providing City airspace for commercial drone testing

Living Labs: Drone testing 
In March 2018, The City of Calgary began to open Shepard Landfill on Mondays, when it wasn’t open to the public, to allow companies with a special flight operations certificate from Transport Canada, to test their drones for free within city limits. View the CBC news story.
Calgary has been a quiet leader in autonomy systems as oil and gas companies have created unique sensors and systems that are now applicable in the drone industry. The City is helping facilitate this tech niche for companies by providing airspace for idea testing, making Calgary one of the first major cities in North America to offer airspace for the mass testing of commercial drones on City-owned land.

The idea began when it became apparent that there was a demand from companies to have an area close to the city centre to test aerial drones. City staff processed some paperwork and then worked with SAIT to allow them to do some testing for research purposes at Shepard Landfill on Mondays.

As the flights with SAIT were going well and the Shepard Landfill staff were happy with the arrangement, The City opened up the space to more aerial drone companies and post-secondary institutions.

Since then, in addition to SAIT, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Aerium Analytics and the University of Calgary have benefited from The City’s airspace, that would otherwise lay barren and unused on Mondays, to test their ideas at low to no cost to The City.

The demand to use the space is increasing, but as the landfill is only open for testing on Mondays, there is limited testing time to keep up with the demand. To help meet the demand and for industry and researchers to flourish, City departments are joining forces to retain and promote growth in this burgeoning sector.

The City’s Real Estate & Development Services has dedicated future phases in Point Trotter Industrial Park in the South East that can be used more frequently by drone researchers and developers. The park is already home to several transportation, logistics, distribution and manufacturing businesses that have a stake in seeing new technologies evolve which has enormous potential to increase the speed and efficiency of getting goods to market.


No additional infrastructure is required, just some time and paperwork to set up the process. Once this site is up and running, it will dramatically increase the amount of time and space researchers have to develop their products in Calgary.

This drone testing is an example of a Living Lab project under the Living Lab strategy, a partnership between The City of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development to make public spaces, transportation corridors and land more accessible for the testing of technological innovation.

For Calgary and a large number of the country’s current unmanned systems companies headquartered in Alberta, this helps bring big ideas to fruition, supports investment in our local economy and makes Calgary more business friendly.

For more information on the Living Lab concept, visit Calgary Economic Development’s page Calgary as a Living Lab.