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Pegasus Imagery – Setting the standard for drone technology

Cole Rosentreter, founder and CEO, Pegasus Imagery

Pegasus Imagery, an Edmonton-based data and drone company, continues to work hard to bridge the gap between military and consumer applications for drone technology. Their recent move to the Edmonton region’s Villeneuve Airport in Sturgeon County was based on a strategic decision to support the firm’s overall goal of supporting the regulation of drone technology operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in Canada.

“The Villeneuve airport is a phenomenal space for us,” says Cole Rosentreter, Pegasus founder and CEO. “It’s bright and it’s modern – so far we are loving it here. But more than that, we’ve been warmly welcomed by the general aviation community here. Because the regulations don’t yet exist in terms of how manned and unmanned aircraft should operate in relation to each other, there is a tendency for some to be risk averse. But what we’ve found here, is that the team at Villeneuve is open to new ways of doing things, which allows us to take more risks in terms of what we are trying to do. This location works as a ‘sandbox’ for us where we are able to test new ways of how we can operate in a controlled airspace.”

Pegasus is also working closely with Transport Canada to establish a regulatory environment for BVLOS for the industry.

“Selfishly, this is a great advantage for us,” says Cole. “Being a first mover in this space will allow us to help deliver real-world data to Transport Canada as they create new regulations for how this industry will be governed. It was interesting, when we first approached Transport Canada, they weren’t that interested. There was a hesitancy to even consider BVLOS operations for drone technology. But when we showed them how the technology we had developed worked, they were excited about the possibility. They saw that we had developed a solution to the problem that had made them hesitant to even consider the expansion of this technology.”

That technology is A3S, or Autonomous Airspace Awareness System, that actively detects and tracks other aircraft in the area, both manned and unmanned, and autonomously executes the safest course of action to avoid collisions. This technology also has the added benefit of improving the scalability of the products that Pegasus is developing.

“Essentially, we can go from having one pilot on the ground, operating one unmanned aircraft, to one pilot operating 20 units,” says Cole.

Cole is bullish in his belief in the potential that drone technology can bring to the aerospace and aviation industry and points to the size of the industry and the massive amount of opportunity that exists. Big companies like Suncor and Trans Mountain are looking for the data they need to improve their business functions and Pegasus is providing the solution.

“Pegasus is hitting the mark when it comes to overcoming the technology barrier and doing it at a scale that makes economic sense,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. Malcolm had a long and distinguished career in the military prior to shifting to the private sector. “Pegasus isn’t just bridging the gap between military and commercial aerial vehicles; they are creating a new market. And their technology and approach is helping establish the national standard. Pegasus provides data at the scale that satellites or manned aircraft are able to accomplish but they’re doing it cheaper, better and faster.”

Pegasus to participate in Boeing Canada LaunchPad Program

Pegasus continues to push forward with the commercial applications they’ve developed and have recently been chosen to participate in the Boeing LaunchPad program – a partnership between Boeing Canada and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. It’s similar to an accelerator program and is aimed at businesses operating in the aviation and aerospace industry that are demonstrating innovation in their field.

“This is a great opportunity for Pegasus,” says Cole. “It’s really a win-win situation. Boeing is looking at expanding its reach into new markets and is looking for new technology partners to improve their competitiveness. By partnering with companies like us, when they go to the Government of Canada, wanting to sell their products and Canada asks, ‘What’s the benefit for us?’ What we’re hoping is that somewhere in their answer is Pegasus.” 

The program will give Cole and his team access to senior Boeing executives and prospective investors and partners, opening up the potential of licensing and selling their technology to Boeing or working on a joint venture. Boeing has selected 10 companies from across Canada to take part in this pilot program and Pegasus is the only hardware and software technology – most are working in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.

Pegasus selected as Cycle II semifinalist for NASA Itech

Pegasus has also been selected as one of 20 companies worldwide as a Cycle II semi-finalist for NASA Itech. An honour which Cole refers to as “humbling.”

“Most people, when they think of NASA automatically think of space. But the first A in NASA actually stands for aeronautics,” Cole points out. “For the last 6 years NASA has been the lead agency in the United States doing research and development around what the new future of aerospace management looks like. With the influx of millions of drones, commercial flights, and rocket launches – how are we going to manage that? What we’re doing at Villeneuve is very similar to what NASA is doing… they’re just at a much larger scale.”

Cole says that new technology they are developing at Pegasus holds great potential for launch applications as well – evidence that Pegasus continues to be an industry leader when it comes to being forward thinking in providing the solutions that a wide variety of industries are looking for.

“People have had 20 years to be underwhelmed by drone technology,” says Cole. “We are changing that.”

Meet our Leaders

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Today, Edmonton Global launched a video series entitled “Meet our Leaders” highlighting businesses in key sectors that are primed for growth and investment across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.  

The series shares examples of industry leaders who continue to leverage the unique benefits of doing business in the region. “These videos are part of raising the profile and building awareness of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region among international investors and companies from around the world who are looking to expand,” said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “We all need to share the message that our region is young, educated, and growing. And our Northern location… it’s a strategic advantage. The stories of innovation and success that already exist here are inspiring and will help define the narrative of this great region.”  

The series focuses on leaders in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region who have found success in the following sectors:  

 AI & Tech

Health & Life Sciences

Manufacturing & Advanced Manufacturing

Food & Agriculture

 Energy & Clean Tech

“We want to showcase who we are and what’s happening across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region in a way that causes people to stand up and pay attention to what’s happening right here, right now,” continued Malcolm. “It’s industry leaders like these that are helping define the narrative of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. We have a compelling story to share with the world and now is the time to come together and advance this message.”

Edmonton Metro Region drives Canada’s first autonomous shuttle pilot

ELA operating on its route during a pilot project in Beaumont, Alberta.

Autonomous vehicles are hitting the streets — and the region’s City of Beaumont is ready to  take the wheel.  

Their recent pilot project introduced the region to ELA — an electric-powered, driverless shuttle that is Canada’s first-ever pilot of an autonomous shuttle in mixed use traffic.

Short for Electric Autonomous, ELA was the perfect fit for Beaumont to test on one of its busiest commercial streets. The small, square, pink and silver vehicle has some big features — it’s safe, fully accessible with a ramp, and can operate on fixed or on-demand routes on its own. 

Driving alongside regular traffic, the shuttle can transport up to 12 people at a time and operates in a dedicated lane and is covered with sensors that allow for quick stops.

Its driverless technology comes with collision avoidance systems that detect other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and obstacles. It is also equipped with multiple safety features for braking, entry and exit of the vehicle.

Autonomous vehicles are changing the way we do business and bringing more convenience to people across the globe. This industry’s development will be a driving force in the world of transportation and logistics, not only for citizens but also for businesses. 

In addition to the ELA project, the region is also home to innovative organizations dedicated to the growing autonomous vehicle sector. 

The University of Alberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation is developing connected vehicle technology, allowing vehicles to “speak” with each other and with other road technology such as stop lights, for example. 

The Advanced Systems for Transportation Consortium (AST) from ACAMP— a tech-focused development centre — is a place for autonomous vehicle testing and development, promoting Alberta’s autonomous systems sector through research and networking with Alberta businesses and multinational automotive companies.

These initiatives highlight the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s focus new tech evolution, welcoming industries to apply new technologies to local planning. 

Off the deep end: University of Alberta students test robot submarine for competition

Members of the University of Alberta’s Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Project (ARVP) perform final testing on their underwater robot (Auri 2.0) at Kinsmen Pool, in Edmonton Saturday July 13, 2019. The team is heading to the International RoboSub Competition in San Diego on July 29. Photo by David Bloom

The first thing to do when you have a robot worth tens of thousands of dollars might not be to drop it in the water — but a University of Alberta student team is doing just that.

The Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Project (ARVP) team spent Saturday afternoon testing underwater robot Auri 2.0 for the last time before they compete in the International RoboSub Competition in San Diego starting July 29.

“The competition is essentially an obstacle course that our robot has to solve without any intervention from us,” ARVP alumni advisor Rumman Waqar said Saturday from the deck of the Kinsmen Sports Centre pool.

The autonomous underwater vehicle will compete against the subs of 57 other teams from around the world. The entries must complete a variety of tasks underwater, which are worth points in addition to those for style.

The U of A team has already pre-qualified for the competition, but that doesn’t mean their work is over. Auri 2.0, which is competing for the third and final time, has been taken “the last mile” by the team since the 2018 competition, but Waqar noted that anything can still happen.

“No matter how prepared you are, things do come up,” he said. “And I think that’s what differentiates teams who win and teams who don’t — just being ready for anything.”

Noni Hua, left, and Rumman Waqar, both members of the University of Alberta’s Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Project team, perform final testing on their underwater robot (Auri 2.0) at Kinsmen Pool, in Edmonton on Saturday. The team is heading to the International RoboSub Competition in San Diego on July 29. Photo by David Bloom

Of the team’s 50-plus members, 16 will travel to California for a week of trials and competitions. Even though the project is housed under the Faculty of Engineering, not all of the students are engineers. Those from business and computer science are also involved in the creation and management of the robot, which is particularly challenging because it needs to work underwater.

“With robots out of water, you have GPS … but with underwater, you don’t have things like that,” Waqar said.

Computer science student Noni Hua, who has been the software team lead since 2017, has been fine-tuning the code that allows the robot to move in multiple directions at once, which will help the team earn style points in competition with barrel rolls and other tricks.

“Right now just from today’s test, we are doing very well,” Hua said Saturday, noting that adequate underwater vision is also a major challenge. “It’s the best we have done so far and I’m really happy that I have such a talented team to work with.”

The team is aiming to finish in the top five, which would be an all-time record for the project founded in 1996.

“We’re very confident in our system so we know that it’s going to work,” said Hua. “I have lots of faith in my team members.”

Electric autonomous vehicle hits the road in Beaumont

Canada’s first driverless vehicle to be running alongside regular traffic is on the move in Beaumont, Alberta. Community Reporter Margeaux Maron has more on the six-month pilot project.

For the first time in Canada, a self-driving shuttle has been integrated into regular traffic.

An Electric Autonomous (ELA) vehicle pilot project has now taken over a kilometre-long stretch of 50 Street, the main road in Beaumont, Alta.

In partnership with Pacific Western Transportation, the City of Beaumont is using the project to showcase the latest in self-driving technology. Although an operator is still required to monitor the shuttle, it can manoeuvre alongside the busy road on its own.

ELA currently reaches a top speed of 15 kilometres per hour and hits one set of traffic lights along its route. However, over the next six months, its route will eventually expand to go through three intersections and make a right-hand turn.

“We’re providing a separate lane so while ELA is in a mixed-use scenario, the lane that ELA is operating in is segregated again from the general travelling public,” Beaumont’s manager of engineering, Tyler Tymchyshyn, said. “During the period for the six months… the goal would be that this is an ELA-only lane so no other traffic would be allowed to operate within the lane.”

Through the use of sensors, the vehicle is able to interact with its environment and safely stop for pedestrians, cars and animals.

While the new addition to the city is stirring up excitement, some people are still hesitant about the technology.

“I don’t think it’s going to have much benefit for the community,” Beaumont resident Martin Kloepfer said. “I just don’t know how many residents are really going to use the shuttle to go back and forth three blocks.”

Beaumont residents checking out ELA, the driverless shuttle that’s part of Edmonton’s Electric Autonomous vehicle pilot project.
Beaumont residents checking out ELA, the driverless shuttle that’s part of Edmonton’s Electric Autonomous vehicle pilot project. Margeaux Maron, Global News

Although ELA could be a convenient mode of transportation for the people of Beaumont, the project was not a transit initiative. The $200,000 price tag was paid for by the city as part of its economic development strategy.

“Part of our economic development strategy is to look at these advances in technologies, but we want to put Beaumont on the map as a municipality that’s willing to take risks and that’s willing to look at things that are off the beaten track,” Beaumont city manager Mike Schwirtz said.

“We want to attract Canadian attention, we want to attract global attention and we saw this first-ever testing of this type of vehicle in North America as being a way to do that.”

The City of Beaumont spent three months planning how to introduce the autonomous vehicle onto the road, deliberating signage, emergency services and traffic light timing changes.

Officials say they want to attract more industrial and commercial investment to the area and hope this project shows they are open to welcoming new technologies in the region.

“I don’t think municipalities are seen as being on the cutting edge of new technologies because we’re seen as having too many rules, seen as moving too slowly. We hope to break that mould; that’s not the case,” Schwirtz added.

“Beaumont is open for business, and we’re willing to look at any and all.”

The shuttle will run Thursdays through Mondays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as well as 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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