The State of Michigan in the United States of America, in cooperation with the province of Ontario, Canada, has launched a project to explore the possibility of establishing an air corridor across their common border for commercial and non-commercial uses of drones. It would provide an innovative additional option that contributes to heavy traffic between the two regions, Especially in light of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The use of drones is still a controversial issue in some societies. Despite the expected positive results from its use at the technological and organizational level. Some see it as a breach of privacy when it flies over their homes or a nuisance because of its buzz. Others argue that drone technology has not yet matured to a level where it can be relied upon to provide reliable services on a commercial level. Or that its caveats outweigh its advantages. These reservations have limited the widespread use of drones despite promising applications and innovative solutions that will contribute to facilitating various services.
This is the case for the people of Michigan and Ontario, Canada, which have launched a project to explore the possibility of establishing an air corridor across their common border for commercial and non-commercial uses of drones that provides an additional innovative option that contributes to heavy traffic between the two regions.
The project is based on a study that will be conducted in collaboration between several entities, including the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDT). Michigan Air Navigation Commission (MAC), and other government actors, Supported by the Office of Mobility and Electricity of the Future (MOFME), and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), In addition to the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), which specializes in autonomous electric vehicle systems, It is affiliated with the government of the province of Ontario in Canada.
The study aims, It is the first of its kind, to examine the various technical and navigational aspects related to the establishment of an air corridor for drones for commercial use, In addition to other aerial systems, To utilize these aircraft in three areas including cross-border or international missions. The study will also include tests to see if small drones can fly beyond the field of vision of the pilot controlling them from the ground. Perform specific tasks such as timely delivery of shipments, delivery of medical supplies or other limited tasks using unmanned aerial system applications.
The study will take into account the issue of privacy and discretion related to the flight of aircraft over residential areas when choosing their routes. But perhaps the perception is already changing rapidly, not only at the population level, but also at the level of policymakers, given the increasing need for drone services. Especially in light of the permanent restrictions and changes imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic in various sectors and aspects of living and economic life. On the one hand, The dramatic decline in air travel (nearly 90% in the United States alone) and street traffic has reduced the risk of accidents caused by drones in the sky or on the ground to a very low level. On the other hand, The need to use drone solutions in the face of the pandemic crisis prompts several industries and sectors to demand simplification of procedures for using these drones in order to be employed in the supply chain. and deliveries of vital goods, and support social distancing during the last mile of delivery, Enable essential workers in various sectors to perform their tasks more effectively.
Thus, There is a shift in opinion in terms of assessing the acceptable level of accident risk that drones may occur against the significant benefits they provide. This is what is now driving the trend towards their use. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, The difficult circumstances of the global pandemic drive innovation, There is a very wide scope for innovation in the use of drones, Which proved successful in specific tasks. Many business leaders believe that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to a "golden age" in the use of these aircraft in deliveries of goods. It will have a prominent role in several other economic fields, Especially to prepare for emergencies or future pandemics.
It is agreed that an additional means of trade with Ontario is necessary given the intensity of cargo shipments between the two regions, The project will contribute to shaping the future of air transport. Goods transported between the two regions were worth US$44.8 billion in 2020. Statistics also show that 25% of total trade between the United States and Canada, which is worth more than 700 billion US dollars, It is transported via lines connecting the city of Detroit in Michigan with the city of Windsor in the province of Ontario. Michigan's aeronautics industry contributes more than $22 billion annually to the state's economy.
And what helps a lot in testing new technologies, Especially in the field of transportation, is that over the past years, both regions have created an encouraging and supportive environment for startups and innovative applications in technology. In 2020, The Michigan Governor's Office established the "Office of Mobility and Future Energy" to coordinate work among the state government, academia, and private sector companies to improve the mobility environment in Michigan, including policy development, Supporting startups in the mobility sector, and expanding the application of emerging technology. For its part, Ontario is home to more than 300 companies and organizations specializing in autonomous vehicle technology.
The results of the study on the drone air corridor will contribute to the decision-making process about the future and nature of air navigation in North America. Residents of the areas to be tested will also be consulted to determine the course of action when the corridor project is implemented in cooperation with the private sector at a later stage through Airspace Link, a startup that specializes in integrating unmanned aircraft systems with conventional air navigation. It will work in coordination with major companies to prepare a feasibility analysis of the project in the light of the study as a first step to determine the infrastructure necessary to support the air corridor for unmanned flight systems and autonomous control effectively and safely. Michigan Central's so-called Mobility Innovation District will support the project by participating in the process of developing and testing the required solutions on the ground.
The study also indicates that the project will create new job opportunities and contribute to supporting the economies of both countries.