Infrastructure-monitoring drones and AI

The Innovative Solutions Canada Program has awarded a contract to Vancouver-based start-up, Spexi Geospatial. This contract will support Spexi’s second phase of work on testing and scaling-up Canadian innovations that support critical transportation infrastructure.

Spexi’s first phase of work used drones, photogrammetry and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor landslides, particularly landslides near rail corridors that could disrupt supply chains. This work was done in close collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada and Transport Canada. This work has led both to both organizations to embed new leading-edge practices into government operations.

Based on this successful first phase, we’ve launched a second phase of work that will focus on using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect wildfire risks around critical infrastructure like railways. The AI can detect risks much quicker and more accurately than traditional methods. This work is happening alongside real-world trials that are looking at using drones at long ranges in a variety of climates, including the North.

This second phase of work is also building local capacity to use these emerging technologies in emergencies, keeping in mind the extreme wildfire season that took place in British Columbia and Ontario in the summer of 2021.

This phase includes 2 beyond-visual-line-of sight trials where drones will fly at long distances to test safe operational limits and practices for ranged inspection of critical infrastructure like railways. The first of these trials took place at the Foremost UAS Range in Alberta, and the second took place in partnership with Airmarket near Edmonton in March 2022.

Each trial set a range record in its class, with the Airmarket trial setting a world record for longest range rail monitoring at a 62km. This trial was designed to prove that drones are useful and efficient tools for inspecting critical infrastructure and responding to emergencies in remote areas.

Taken as a whole, this collaboration is creating state-of-the-art practices for monitoring rail and improving the transportation sector’s resilience to emergencies that can damage critical transportation infrastructure. This is part of Transport Canada’s ongoing commitment to support emerging technologies and the safe use of cutting-edge robotics, drones and artificial intelligence (AI) in the transportation system.

We’re happy to have many partners working on this project, including:

  • Spexi
  • Airmarket
  • Decision-works
  • the University of Manitoba
  • Northeastern University
  • British Columbia Institute of Technology
  • VIA Rail
  • the Arctic Gateway Group
  • the Civil Search and Rescue Association
  • Forty Mile Rail, and
  • the Foremost UAS Centre of Excellence