Michigan and Ontario are co-operating in a study to see if commercial goods could be transported across the border using drones.
According to a news release from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the study will explore whether small drones can be flown beyond the line of sight of a pilot and be used in operations like just-in-time delivery, medical transport or other small-scale deployment of unmanned aerial systems .
The feasibilty study is in its early stages and a number of issues still need to be worked out, but the head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, which is working with the American counterparts on the study, sees great potential.
"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.
The head of the cross-border institute at the University of Windsor says there are many outstanding safety concerns, like how to operate the drones beyond line of sight and how the goods would be inspected by customs.
"Drones are a potential terrorist threat," said Bill 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? " said Anderson
"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," said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
It's not known when the study will be completed.