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Delivery Swarm: Ontario launches joint cross-border drone delivery study with Michigan

Windsor, Ontario — A joint Ontario-Michigan study is looking for a way to skip the line at the border and use drones for the delivery of in-demand auto parts across the Canada-U.S. border crossing in Windsor, Ont.

First announced in a press release from Michigan’s Department of Transportation, the study will test the ability of small drones to fly beyond its pilot’s line of sight and over bodies of water, like the Detroit River.

Questions around logistics and how to regulate duties and cross-border drone traffic are still being worked out, as the project is still in very early stages, though Michigan is working alongside the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) to come up with a solution.

“This is just another opportunity in another technology that may be useful in the future to move goods in a safe and efficient manner. But this study is really in the very, very early stages for us to better understand how this technology can support us and how it fits into different opportunities, not just economic, but social and environmental,” said Raed Kadri, head of OVIN, in an interview with the CBC.

Head of the University of Windsor’s cross-border institute, Bill Anderson noted not just the obvious national security risks of having drones flying back-and-forth across an international border, but the logistical wrinkles that still have to be ironed out.

“Drones are a potential terrorist threat,” said Anderson. “But also, if you’re using them to move goods, then you’ve got the whole question of customs administration. If you are going to do the sort of Amazon vision of being able to take a package and send it directly to somebody’s house and it goes across the border and there’s duty to do on that. How is that going to be administered?”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in her statement, “Considering the density of auto suppliers, logistic companies, technology start-ups, and consumers in the region, it is a natural fit to test this cutting-edge aerial technology here. The vital research could lead to faster product deliveries and reduced supply chain disruptions in the future, helping us grow Michigan’s economy and put Michiganders first.”

A timeline has not yet been provided for this study.

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One Response

  1. Crossing borders with a drone should be no different from crossing on a truck. The drones have identifying numbers; they should have advanced reporting before the drone is loaded, “Duty” for commercial shipments is done electronically. It’s just a different form of transportation.

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