Ontario Will Enlist Drones to Enforce HOV Lanes

Ontario is taking to the sky to manage transportation on the ground.

The Sky Guys have teamed up with NVIDIA, IBM and the University of Toronto to work closely with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to develop an AI-enabled drone solution to monitor the province’s 400-series highways. This initiative is in response to the Vehicle Occupancy Detection problem statement issued by the government, a document that describes the challenges of monitoring a brand new toll lane.

The project is funded with $750,000 from Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) as part of the Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC), a government-run program that helps SMEs like Oakville-based the Sky Guys launch their innovations from an idea stage and become globally competitive products or services.

The application for the drones, creatively titled “Long-Range AI-Enabled Unmanned Aerial System for Highway Traffic Enforcement with Future Road Applications,” will have its funding administered over the next two years while all involved companies work with the provincial government.

“This is very exciting for us,” said Adam Sax, CEO of the Sky Guys. “Ontario is the hub of innovation in Canada, so we are very honoured to be selected for this amazing project.”

The Sky Guys have been all around lately, both literally and figuratively. The company spoke at and sponsored the Big Drone Show in Toronto recently and also announced a $1.2 million private placement at the beginning of 2017.

“We have understood the disruptive capabilities of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles since launching the Sky Guys, and have helped countless clients reap the benefits,” said Sax. “To see government expressing interest in how our technology can help build smarter cities in Ontario is thrilling, and we are beyond excited to develop the best methods to assist in the monitoring of highway traffic laws in the province.”

The drones will be used to manage to see if a car has enough people to qualify for travelling in a carpool lane. The process must be enforceable and secure, automated, integrate with existing government technologies and be safe and convenient, according to the government’s problem statement.

Ontario currently uses manned aircraft to measure speeding on certain stretches of road, with a plane flying 1,000 hours a year and issuing 5,000 tickets. The technology is outdated though, as spotters often use a stopwatch to measure infractions based on how fast a driver gets from one road marking to another. There is no indication that the Sky Guys technology will be used for speeding, but it may become a possibility down the road.

The Sky Guys develop drone products such as their new DX-3 Vanguard, but are most known for their technology solutions offered to businesses to help drive insight and create new ways of gathering data.