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Calgary is a North American hub for geospatial science which is driving growth in the emerging sector of autonomous systems.

Many industries are moving towards increased technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Companies in Calgary are utilizing autonomous systems coupled with geospatial computing technologies in sectors such as oil and gas, agriculture, construction, film and television and logistics.


5 reasons why Calgary stands out in the Autonomous Systems Sector

1. 2,300 companies in the autonomous systems cluster call Calgary home

Alberta is home to 25% of Canada’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), geospatial and navigation companies, most of which are based in the Calgary region. Anchor firms such as Lockheed Martin, Novatel and Raytheon, and emerging companies including Aerium Analytics, Veerum and Microhard have operations in Calgary. 


2. Calgary boasts highly-skilled talent with expertise in geospatial science, data processing, software development and systems integration

Calgary’s labour force size in the autonomous systems cluster is 17,200 people. Calgary’s workforce for surveying and mapping is three times the concentration compared to the rest of the country, with specialties in geomatics, GIS and manufacturing of GPS and GNSS equipment. Calgary also has a high concentration of talent doing custom software development and the highest concentration of engineers per capita of any Canadian city. 


3. World-class research and development

Calgary offers access to world-class research and development institutions.

University of Calgary – Offers research and training programs in geospatial science and engineering, integration with autonomous mobile systems (vehicles, drones and robots) and related technology for autonomous systems (sensors, sensor fusion, software). Research productivity, scholarly impact and international collaborations in geomatics (geospatial science) are the highest of any institution in Canada.

SAIT – Provides UAV-related curriculum including communication, navigation, mapping and data collection. The Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems (CIRUS) leads industry-partnered applied research in unmanned systems.

Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP) – An industry-led product development centre for entrepreneurs to move their technology from proof of concept to manufactured product.

TECTERRA – The University of Calgary led development of the first national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization of Research in the area of geomatics technology – TECTERRA Inc. – which has supported over 100 Alberta-based SMEs and generated $200M in economic impact to date.


4. Low cost of doing business

In a recent study, conducted by EY, Calgary placed at the top of the least expensive cities to establish and operate a drone or communication and navigation equipment manufacturing facility. Thanks to low tax and utility rates, among other things, it would be 70 – 145 per cent cheaper to do business in these areas than in Silicon Valley. 


5. Calgary and Alberta are a living lab

Calgary is the first major city in North America to allow mass testing of commercial drones and recent regulation also allows for the testing of autonomous systems technologies on city owned land. Companies including Lockheed Martin, in partnership with SAIT and NASA, ACAMP and Takemetuit are already testing technologies in the city. The City of Calgary is formally rolling out this program in 2018. Calgary shares close proximity to Canada’s largest Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing site, the Foremost Centre for Unmanned Systems, and the Canadian Armed Force’s largest military research centre.


 To learn more, read our report Driving Tech Forward: An Overview of Calgary's Autonmous & Unmanned Technology Cluster