Transport Canada awards CAD1.3m contract to test autonomous flights across northern Canada

Transport Canada has signed a CAD1.3 million contract with Innovative Solutions Canada and cargo airline startup Ribbit to begin testing self-flying aircraft in remote regions. Ribbit is providing Transport Canada with a single aircraft along with remote crew and maintenance services to sustain autonomous cargo flights for one year. Transport Canada will leverage this data to help inform future aviation regulations, standards, and policy.

Ribbit says it has completed over 200 hours of hands-free flight on a two-seat airplane and is rapidly advancing operational testing in preparation for commercial service. It sees its technology as a solution to pressing logistical issues facing northern communities and businesses.

Ribbit was issued a Special Flight Operations Certificate in 2022 authorizing uncrewed flight tests, and the company reports letters of intent from leading retailers totalling CAD42 million/year. The company is initially focused on shipping time-sensitive goods to northern Canada, where 120 million lbs of food alone are sold annually. However, the long-term vision will see autonomous aircraft used for a wide range of cargo operations and aerial work.

“Many rural and remote areas are served by larger airplanes that fly infrequently,” said CEO Carl Pigeon. “Ribbit takes a smaller aircraft and uses autonomy to drastically change the unit economics of that plane. This lets us offer reliable next-day or two-day service and improve supply chains.”

“We have been working with government, community, and private partners to ensure this technology will serve a real need. We are excited to enable a future where anybody can ship and receive goods quickly and reliably no matter where they are”, added COO Jeremy Wang.

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