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Success story: IN-FLIGHT and AirMatrix Phase II

Calgary's living lab in action IN-FLIGHT Data and AirMatrix Phase II

Drone project continues to fly high in one of the world’s first urban signals mapping operations.

Things are looking up for Canadian companies AirMatrix and IN-FLIGHT Data - they progressed through the second phase of their Calgary drone project in summer 2023.

In 2022, The City of Calgary’s Living Labs supported the first phase of their testing. Learnings from that will contribute to safer and more efficient drone operations in urban areas as the project progresses through subsequent phases. Summer 2023 found Living Labs collaborating once again with the project to successfully conduct one of the world’s first urban signals mapping operations, at almost 1,000 feet above the ground, beyond the line of sight of the pilot, and over urban neighborhood populations. 

Along with remote traffic management software leader AirMatrix, IN-FLIGHT Data demonstrated their advanced drone operations expertise to complete a highly complex “SAIL 4” mission, the first of this level and scale known to have ever been completed in the world.  “SAIL” refers to the regulator’s combined complexity of a drone mission, from 1 (low) to 6 (high).

Phase 2 involved flying for 660 km entirely inside the city of Calgary over densely populated urban areas, with an approved Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC). Most times, the aircraft was over 2 km away from the pilot while performing the high aerial survey to scale-up the measurement and assessment of the entire communications network fabric above Calgary, including geolocation, cellular, radio and many others.

This understanding of urban radio network performance will be critical to the safe navigation and communication of high-performance drone aircraft in the air above our communities, and telecommunications companies, governments, regulators, airspace navigation service providers, and industry are all needed to work together as new industry applications for drones emerge and scale as the industry evolves. Funding for part of this research has been made possible by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

Through the Smart Cities Living Labs program, The City can support Canadian businesses, thereby advancing economic diversity and opportunity in our community, while in this case, also preparing our city for future commercial drone operations and taking a step towards allowing businesses to utilize digital infrastructure to operate safely in Calgary.

For the project to test in the real-life environment that is Calgary, the Living Labs team facilitated internal permits required to access City owned take-off and landing locations, as well as facilitated the collection of necessary flight details to obtain the project go-aheads from different City service areas and notifications of the flight times and dates for public safety assurance.  “The City’s Living Labs Program helped make it easy for us to perform our research on urban infrastructure,” said Chris Healy, President, IN-FLIGHT Data Group. “Their teams reduced the amount of time it took for us to actually DO research. They were very helpful.”

The City’s Smart Cities Living Labs aims is to offer access to City assets for companies, researchers and individuals to test and try ideas and products in a real-life environment, helping entrepreneurs bring big ideas to fruition and supporting investment in the local economy.

Click to expand image.

Advanced drone and team measuring aerial network performance high in the sky, almost 1,000 feet high for future urban air mobility. Photo credit