AI-enabled drones being developed for monitoring Ontario’s HOV lanes

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Canada’s leader in drone technology and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), The Sky Guys, has teamed up with Nvidia, IBM and the University of Toronto (UT) to work on a government-funded project that will trial the use of drones to monitor Ontario’s carpool lanes.

The partnership has been awarded C$750,000 (US£587,400) by the Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE), as part of its Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC), and the group will work closely with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled drone system to monitor Ontario’s 400-series highways. The initiative is in response to the government’s Vehicle Occupancy Detection Problem Statement, which outlines the challenges associated with monitoring abuse of the province’s carpool lanes.

The partnership’s application, ‘Long-Range AI-Enabled Unmanned Aerial System for Highway Traffic Enforcement with Future Road Applications’, was selected for funding by the OCE, and the two-year project will see The Sky Guys work with the MTO to test AI-equipped drones for highway enforcement and management, beginning with high-occupancy vehicle/high-occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) lanes.

Through its Defiant Labs technology division, The Sky Guys has recently unveiled its new DX-3 Vanguard high-endurance long-range fixed wing drone, which is suitable for the HOV lane monitoring project. With a 13ft (4m) wingspan and 8ft (2.4m) overall length, the RX-3 is capable of a 25-hour flight duration and range of 932 miles (1,500km).

It uses radio, cellular and satellite communications to provide beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities, and collision avoidance using short-range lidar range-finding, computer vision and space-based ADS-B positional awareness. The RX-3 uses four ducted fans for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and a gasoline-powered rotated engine for forward flight, with a maximum speed of 90mph (144km/h) and normal cruising speed of 56-70mph (90-112km/h), making it suitable for tracking at normal highway speeds.

“We have understood the disruptive capabilities of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles since launching the company, and have helped countless clients reap the benefits,” said Adam Sax, president and CEO of The Sky Guys.

“To see government expressing interest in how our technology can help build smarter cities in Ontario is thrilling, and we will develop the best methods to assist in the monitoring of highway traffic laws in the province.”

Jeremy Wang, Sky Guys CTO, added, “In the future, our system will address additional challenges, from tracking road defects to correlating highway contractor choice, to the quality of roads they maintain.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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