You would logically expect to find airplanes at a commercial airport. Perhaps some helicopters, old aircraft, a few private planes, maybe some military craft. But since they became popular a few years ago, small, radio-controlled UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)—better known as a drone—have been watched closely by airport controllers and considered a threat to “real airplanes.” Stories about miniature UAVs intercepting commercial airliners and private planes, causing near or actual accidents, are all too common, even if most are not true.
In Canada, things are taking a different turn. Edmonton Intl. Airport used a highly specialized drone to conduct runway safety inspections, as the airport continues to be a leader in the growing technology. EIA (Edmonton Intl. Airport) is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation and Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic. It is also the largest major Canadian airport by land area with 2 million-sq.ft., of runways, taxiways, and aircraft handling aprons to maintain. EIA maintenance program requires annual pavement inspections.
AERIUM Analytics, on behalf of EIA, flew a Microdrones mdLiDAR1000 to collect LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and imagery data of EIA’s runways. The data collected will be used to more accurately predict when to conduct preventative maintenance on runways, taxiways, and aircraft handling aprons, enhancing safety.
The RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system)—or drone—operation was approved by Edmonton Airports in collaboration with Nav Canada and is part of the ongoing AERIUM RPAS operations at EIA, which is one of the only airports in Canada using this technology. Microdrones has developed an end-to-end LiDAR solution combining a drone, a LiDAR payload, a fully integrated software workflow, and support to consistently provide quality deliverables. The mdLiDAR1000 is a fully integrated system for producing 3D point clouds optimized for land surveying, construction, oil & gas, and mining applications.
This is the fourth year that AERIUM Analytics has operated RPAS at EIA, beginning with Robird robotic falcon flights to control bird activity. So far AERIUM has conducted more than 3,000 safe airport flights. AERIUM drones conducted the first ever night airport flight at EIA and its RPAS effectively helps airports control bird migration, conduct construction and maintenance surveys, and calibrate equipment as well as working with the energy and forestry industries.
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