The project will explore whether small drones can be flown beyond the line of sight of a pilot and be used in operations like just-in-time delivery, medical transport, or other small-scale deployment of unmanned aerial systems.
The US state of Michigan and Canadian province of Ontario are collaborating on an aerial mobility corridor study to test the feasibility of commercial drones and other aerial systems in three areas, including cross-border.
This joint effort will explore whether small drones can be flown beyond the line of sight of a pilot and be used in operations like just-in-time delivery, medical transport, or other small-scale deployment of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
The study will be conducted through the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, the State of Michigan, with support from the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Economic Development Corp and the Government of Ontario, through the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network.
Advanced air mobility
The information gathered from this feasibility study will be used to further decision-making in preparing for the future of advanced air mobility in North America. Another critical piece of information that will determine if and how to proceed is the teams’ education and engagement with the communities surrounding the areas where the feasibility study is done.
“Cross-border partnership is critical across all dimensions of mobility, including aerial systems. Michigan and Ontario have a rich history of partnering on groundbreaking innovations and this project by Air Space Link continues that tradition,” said Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan.
“Considering the density of auto suppliers, logistic companies, technology start-ups, and consumers in the region, it is a natural fit to test this cutting-edge aerial technology here. The vital research could lead to faster product deliveries and reduced supply chain disruptions in the future, helping us grow Michigan’s economy and put Michiganders first.”
Another key partner in two of the three proposed areas for the commercial drone skyway will be the Michigan Central mobility innovation district in the Corktown neighbourhood of Detroit. Its community-based outreach and collaboration with key stakeholders from the state and city will help advance this research and innovation to a broader idea of autonomy that goes beyond vehicles on the road, but also the water or sky.
“Michigan Central’s aim really is to serve as an open platform for collaboration – drawing the best minds from around the world to co-create and test mobility solutions on real-world streets, in real-world situations,” said Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central development director.
“That includes, in this case, bringing in the best from here in the States and also across the way to Ontario to push the boundaries of how we look at autonomy as part of this aerial mobility corridor. But no matter what we’re exploring, the ideas or solutions need to have one ultimate purpose: to improve access and equity for all, and that is why community engagement from the offset will always remain key to us.”
“The vital research could lead to faster product deliveries and reduced supply chain disruptions in the future, helping us grow Michigan’s economy and put Michiganders first”
A newly formed partnership with Airspace Link, a Detroit-based drone technology start-up, and their partners at Thales USA, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Aviation Innovations LLC, CityFi, and Grand Sky Development will develop a feasibility analysis as a first step to establish infrastructure required to support a range of commercial and public advanced air mobility use cases.
In addition, the Airspace Link team will provide an analysis of existing airspace, air traffic infrastructure, and ground infrastructure required to ensure operational safety of commercial drone skyway.
The analysis will also include the potential economic impacts, applicable state and local zoning restrictions, environmental factors (like social equity and noise considerations), travel impacts, and connections to existing aviation, surface transportation, and transit modes.