AirMatrix continues to soar thanks to a supportive relationship with Waterloo Region that assists the startup in aerial-mapping area roads and creating proposed “skyways” for the safe use of commercial delivery drones.
The Toronto-based company, which won Communitech’s $100,000 Fierce Founders Pitch Competition last year and is a current participant in the AVIN Waterloo Ventures at Communitech program, uses aerial mapping to build an air-traffic control infrastructure that drones will require to safely navigate congested urban airspace.
Trials of the skyway grid began this month in Waterloo Region with the delivery of medicine to homes and long-term care facilities. The tests were facilitated with the help of the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, Hogan Pharmacy and PeopleCare, according to a news release from AirMatrix and Waterloo Region.
(Left to right) AirMatrix co-founders Shayaan Haider, Ayaan Haider, Alexandra McCalla and
Bashir Khan. (Photo courtesy of AirMatrix)
In Canada, drone regulations come under federal government jurisdiction. Transport Canada has supported the AirMatrix trials with supervision of all the test flights in Waterloo Region.
“With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, drone usage has accelerated further,” said Shayaan Haider, co-founder at AirMatrix. “There has never been a better time to focus on innovative contactless services, like drone delivery, to stop the spread of the virus, as well as ensure those with mobility issues get the care they deserve.”
“We’re interested to see the outcome of the testing AirMatrix has undertaken using their flight path technology,” said Karen Redman, Chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. “The outcome of this work will help shape the drone ecosystem in our country in the future, which is why supporting a neighbouring startup made sense for the Region.”
In an interview, AirMatrix CEO Bashir Khan said commercial drone service for business and individuals is progressing faster than most people realize.
The current challenge is to find ways to safely integrate multiple drone service providers and activities (e.g., drone delivery, drone inspection, etc.) in complex environments, such as urban centres.
“We provide a routing engine which connects directly to the autopilots of different manufacturers and different services and takes place simultaneously,” Khan said. “What that allows for is the interoperability of services so that you can have (multiple drones and missions) and have all communicate with each other and with our server so that there isn’t any chaos.”
Khan said the drone trials in Waterloo Region are ground-breaking.
“In terms of urban operations, this is the first trial of its kind in North America where you have interoperability of multiple services, multiple aircraft, in an urban environment,” he said. “It’s also the first sustained trial where it’s not only going to be a few test flights; this is ultimately leading toward commercial adoption and scale, and working with Waterloo Region and Transport Canada and NAV Canada and these different stakeholders to bring down the user economics to a place where drones can ultimately serve in our daily lives in a much more efficient way.”
Khan said AirMatrix couldn’t have gotten as far as it has without the support of Communitech.
The startup participated in Communitech’s Fierce Founders Bootcamp, which helps women tech entrepreneurs accelerate their companies. It went on to win the $100,000 Fierce Founders Pitch Competition last year, and is a current participant in the AVIN Waterloo Ventures at Communitech program, which provides investment and mentorship to companies that create autonomous vehicle technology and connected transportation solutions.
“Communitech has been a key support for us from the beginning,” Khan said. “They’ve been really helpful, both as a channel and an opener of doors to resources and to mentorship. I know some of the people that we work with at Communitech, we definitely couldn’t have gone to this point without them.”
Mauro Rossi, Communitech’s Director of Advanced Technology Platforms, said it’s gratifying to see AirMatrix working within the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem to advance their success.
“It’s great to see how well they are doing by leveraging the region’s community of startups and resources,” he said. “It really highlights the value of Communitech and our efforts to help tech-driven companies start, grow and succeed.”