Edmonton International aims to become world’s first drone delivery hub

A KLM Airbus A330 passes in front of Edmonton International Airport’s control tower October 6, 2019 (photo: Edmonton International Airport).

Edmonton International Airport has signed on, if the deal is approved by regulators, to become the world’s first airport drone delivery hub. The airport authority signed a five-year deal with Drone Delivery Canada to build flight routes and a drone landing zone.

“With [the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority], we will develop a drone logistics network centered at this world-class airport as a hub for numerous drone routes for our customers,” said Drone Delivery Canada President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Zahra in a statement.

Drone Delivery Canada, based in Toronto, is a drone technology company designing and developing drones for deliveries between companies, and direct to consumers. It has tested technology allowing pilots to fly drones beyond their line of sight, a limitation on civilian drones.

Zahra said the deal was negotiated with the help of its sales agent, Air Canada.

The company’s share price jumped five per cent in trading Tuesday, after the deal was made public.

“We will continue to work with ERAA and Transport Canada to define particular routes, and with ERAA and Air Canada to negotiate revenue metrics and other commercial terms, to be announced in future press releases. Given the potential size and scope of this disruptive offering, revenue outlook could be significant while concurrently bringing tremendous logistical benefits to the region”, said Zahra.

Edmonton International has embraced drone technology, using an unmanned vehicle for the first time earlier this month to inspect its runways. It has also used drones to test safety equipment and help control birds.

The airport has been aggressively trying to diversify its revenue base in recent years, building a mall on its property to go along with horse racing, and pioneering a new way to heat aircraft during cold winter months.

“EIA is proud to partner with industry leader DDC to establish Canada’s first airport drone delivery site and drastically modernize cargo logistics and supply chain solutions,” said Myron Keehn, EIA’s Vice President of Air Service and Commercial Development.

“Together with our long-standing partnership with Air Canada, we look forward to expanding DDC’s network of customers at EIA’s Airport City, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, and other strategic partners. DDC’s DroneSpot at EIA elevates intermodal connectivity to support the growing E-Commerce, Pharmaceuticals, Courier and Oil & Gas sectors. Thanks to our partners like NAV Canada and Transport Canada, our airport is leading in embracing innovation.”

Edmonton International is situated in the heart of the Canadian oil industry, and passenger numbers tend to rise and fall with the local economy. Passenger numbers were down four per cent during the busy summer months and business ventures tend to help an airport cope with a reduction in passenger revenues.