Training Tomorrow's Remote Pilots

by Nicolas Sacchetti

Telepilots can now improve their skills at the very first Canadian test site for R&D, as well as training and qualification for drones, the Qualia test site.

Marc Moffat is a former air combat systems officer who served 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. He participated in the conversation about the challenges of designing drones and integrating them into the airspace. As a strategy advisor, he presented the Qualia test site, which is under the wing of the Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence  (CED) in Alma, Quebec.

Marc Moffatt, Former Air Combat Systems Officer, CAF

From the outset, Moffatt emphasised the importance of having infrastructure to support the research and development activities of various aviation companies as well as the safe integration of drones in the airspace.

The Qualia test site is intended to be "as realistic as possible" a representation of the environment where drones will be deployed. Its mandate is to provide a testing space for companies and to bridge the gap between remote pilots and their clients. Qualia has over 120,000 km2 of regulated airspace dedicated to drone flights. "Beyond visual range" flight tests are also possible. 

Imagination Is the Limit

The Qualia test site includes roads, forest, and waterbodies. These spaces allow for simulating scenarios of emergency service support, rescue, canopy measurement, and flood monitoring. 

You can also find infrastructure such as buildings, pipelines, power distribution lines, and railroads. They are used to validate technical assessments, such as structural compliance and necessary maintenance. The urban area can be used to perform simulations of shadowing and hostage taking. There are also mounds to practice volume calculations, and fields can be flown over to collect all kinds of agricultural data.

"The possible uses of drones are only limited by our imagination." 

- Marc Moffatt, Former Air Combat Systems Officer, CAF

Pilot Certification

According to current Transport Canada regulations, « No pilot shall operate a drone unless the drone or a visual observer follows the pilot in a line-of-sight manner throughout the flight."

However, a pilot holding a Specialized Flight Operations Certificate is permitted to operate a drone without a line of sight.

"It is the Minister of Transportation who issues the Specialized Certificate if the applicant demonstrates that he or she is able to perform the proposed operation, without compromising aviation safety and the safety of persons." -Transport Canada

The Challenges of Tomorrow

The ecosystem of drone air traffic management services is called RTM (RPAS Traffic Management). According to Transport Canada, "RTM can manage unmanned aircraft operating in Canadian airspace. They have functionalities such as drone tracking - or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems), remote identification and conflict resolution."

RTM is set to grow in the future. It is at the heart of the issue of drone autonomy to ensure that traffic management occurs safely, and that flights are conducted without disruption to the quality of life of the neighbourhood.

Moffat ended his presentation with the words, "Right now we're limited to one operator per system, but ultimately what we're looking to do is have multiple autonomous systems flying under one operator."

Marc Moffat participated on May 13, 2021, in the webinar on the future of RPAS - Remotely Piloted Aircraft System - during the First Congress P4IE on Policies, Practices and Processes related to the Performance of the Innovation Ecosystem. Events presented by the Partnership for the Organisation of Innovation and New Technologies (4POINT0). 


Charlotte Laramée: Accelerating the Growth of the Canadian Aerospace Industry

Frank Matus: Safe integration of drones into the airspace

Marc Moffat: Training tomorrow's remote pilots

This content has been updated on 2022-09-14 at 18 h 24 min.