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Canada opens expanded UAS test centre

Canada’s newly expanded Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence (UASCE) opened the doors on a new facility in Alma, Quebec on 27 February, as its backers signed a multinational cooperation agreement to support the integration of such technology into non-segregated airspace.

Nearly 250 people attended the opening ceremony, associated flight demonstration and a conference on airspace integration, including officials from Canada, France, Israel, Italy, the UK and the USA.

Dubbed Project Essor, the C$4.3 million ($3.8 million) site expansion has been supported by a C$2.5 million investment by the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions programme, plus additional financial support from the Gouvernement du Québec.

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“The UASCE is becoming increasingly known as a world leader in both civil and commercial applications in the field of unmanned aerial systems,” says its president, Pascal Pilote.

Close to the Canadian air force’s Bagotville air base and with a 5,000ft (1,520m)-long runway, the UASCE’s Alma airport site supports activities with assets up to the medium-altitude, long-endurance class. This includes an unmanned Diamond Aircraft DA42 Dominator, adapted by Israel’s Aeronautics and flown by CAE.

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As part of its new development, the UASCE has signed up to a consortium of aeronautical test sites also including the CESA centre in Bordeaux, France, the UK National Aeronautical Centre – including West Wales airport, and with the USA’s Oklahoma State University.

“Other centres are planned to join the international consortium within the next year,” says the Canadian organisation, which currently represents 16 members, including CAE and Flyterra.

Involving sharing information on operational safety, flight regulations and operational experiences during the development, testing and certification of unmanned systems, the pact has “the common mission to lead, coordinate and facilitate efforts to ensure UAS airspace integration,” its Canadian partner says.