Among a wide range of Canadian industries there is a need for increased situational awareness and site-specific information that is available in a timely fashion and interpretable by
local decision makers. Remotely-piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) play an increasingly important role to meet these information needs especially in cases where the cost, level of detail, and operational inflexibility of conventional sensor platforms
(e.g., ground, manned aircraft, satellite) are limiting factors. Capable of controlled level flight even though no pilot is onboard, RPAS increase situational awareness while reducing human workloads, and accomplish many monitoring tasks at a lower
cost and personnel risk, higher level of detail, and a shorter turn-around time. To close the knowledge gaps between organizations that have already begun to use RPAS with those that are intending to do so, the goal of this report was to reduce the
chance for duplication of work between organizations in their developments of RPAS-specific geomatics programs and services. The scientific literature, operational experience, and policy recommendations were synthesized to provide an overview of the
technological and regulatory aspects of RPAS operations, as well as best practices and risk management strategies. RPAS are a mature technology to derive geo-information products in Canada, and a large variety of operational platforms and sensors can
serve a wide range of mapping and situational awareness applications. Autopilot technology and software for flight planning, flight guidance, and data processing is commercially available and production capable, and is highly automated. RPAS can
therefore serve markets whose workforce may have little aviation or photogrammetric experience. The majority of operational RPAS applications are conducted with small RPAS and with consumer-grade cameras, over project areas not larger than 10 km2.
The majority of operational RPAS applications are comprised of oblique still photography, video footage, and photogrammetric applications (e.g., ortho-mosaic, Digital Terrain Model) whereby RPAS provide a competitive price-performance level,
flexibility, and high-grade accuracies in case of mapping projects. Updated regulations in 2017 are expected to greatly reduce the need for Special Flight Operation Certificates, which will reduce organizational risks and improve the ability to
quickly respond to information needs. From a privacy stand-point the collection of personal information from RPAS are subject to the same privacy law requirements as any other data collection practice. Nevertheless, the geomatics industry has much to
gain with a transparent approach through public notifications of RPAS missions, purpose specification, designating a point-of-contact, and appropriate data handling procedures. Furthermore, clear end-user license agreements should be in place to
specify data rights and restrictions, particularly in the case of sensitive information. The RPAS and associated data processing industry is rapidly growing and evolving both in Canada and globally. This advancing medium will continue to serve both
existing and new geospatial information users. Improvements in platform and sensor technology, beyond visual-line-of-sight regulations, availability of Canadian RPAS test sites, earth observation research, data processing and management techniques,
and data standards are required to further promote its use. RPAS also provide opportunities for improved geomatics outreach through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) opportunities and community-based monitoring.
|Summary||(Plain Language Summary, not published)|
Remotely-piloted Aircraft Systems, or drones, have emerged as an excellent tool to monitor small sites of interest. They play an increasingly important
role within organizations by providing a less costly, higher detailed, and more flexible method to collect information compared to conventional methods. This report helps organizations determine whether drones are a suitable alternative and how to
implement drones within their operations. The report provides an overview of proven applications and highlights the ready-to-fly equipment that is currently available in North America. Organizations must address regulations concerning aviation,
privacy, intellectual property, trespassing, and the transportation of dangerous goods. Best practices are summarized in terms of how to design a stand-alone project or implement an operational program, and techniques used to obtain, process, and
manage 2D, 3D, and video datasets. Risk management strategies are formulated. Emerging opportunities, recommendations, and knowledge gaps are highlighted to advance the use of drones in Canada.