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Gatwick airport reopens after drone disruption — but delays expected to drag on

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Britain’s Gatwick Airport reopened on Friday after a rogue drone saboteur wrought travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of Christmas travellers by playing cat-and-mouse with police snipers and the army.

After the biggest disruption at Gatwick, Britain’s second busiest, since a volcanic ash cloud in 2010, Gatwick said its runway was open and that a limited number of aircraft were scheduled for departure and arrival.

“Gatwick’s runway is currently available and a limited number of aircraft are scheduled for departure and arrival,” the airport said.

“Gatwick continues to advise passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before traveling to the airport as departures and arrivals will be subject to delays and cancellations.”

Britain called in the military and police snipers to hunt down the drone and its operator, who flew what is thought to be an industrial style drone near the airport every time it tried to reopen.

Flights were halted on Wednesday night after two drones were spotted near the airfield.

It is illegal to fly drones within one kilometre of a British airport boundary, punishable by five years in prison.

Watch: Expert weighs in on the challenges and regulatory hurdles in the world of drones.

A drone expert discusses the challenges and regulatory hurdles in the world of drones. Eric Sazcuk is an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain’s Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield. 1:38

The drone sightings caused misery for tens of thousands of travellers who were stranded at Gatwick, many sleeping on the floor as they searched for alternative routes to holidays and Christmas family gatherings.

Transport minister Chris Grayling lifted night-flying restrictions at other airports to ease congestion caused by diverted aircraft.

Police Detective Chief Supt. Jason Tingley said that “our assessment, based upon the information that we have available to us, is that this incident is not terrorism-related.”

Passengers wait Friday in the line for check-in in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport in the longest delays seen there in several years. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Richard Parker, head of the air traffic management technology firm Altitude Angel, said this was the first time a major airport had been hit by such a sustained and deliberate incursion into its airspace.

“It’s sophisticated – not from a technology side, but it’s organized. People have charged lots of batteries, and are deliberately trying to avoid being caught, probably by driving around to different locations,” he told Reuters.

“It really is unprecedented.”

Watch: See the chaos at Gatwick during the delays.

With a surge in public enthusiasm for drones, there has been an increase in near-collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets in recent years.

The number of near misses between private drones and aircraft in Britain more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board regulator.

Gatwick, which competes with Europe’s busiest airport Heathrow, west of London, had said Sunday would be its busiest day of the festive period.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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