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Meet the Arctic's youngest drone pilot
Iqaluit youth makes career in high-tech unmanned vehicle industry

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 13, 2017

Nineteen-year-old Keane Sudlovenick has parlayed a summer job after graduating from Inuksuk High School in 2015 into a blossoming career as the pilot of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.

NNSL photograph

Keane Sudlovenick, 19, is certified to fly the Sensefly eBee RTK system, an unmanned survey-grade mapping aerial vehicle. - photo courtesy of Arctic UAV

"I thought it was something very new which could be utilized very well here. I saw a lot of potential in what we could do, what could grow in the company," said Sudlovenick.

The company he works for, Iqaluit-based Arctic UAV, touts him as "the Arctic's youngest and most experienced UAV pilot," with certification on fixed wing (plane) and rotary wing (helicopter) unmanned aerial vehicles.

Already, he can boast: professional UAV certification with ING Robotics Aviation Inc. in Ottawa and type certification on the Sensefly eBee RTK UAV in Calgary. He also trained to fly the Aeryon SkyRanger, and has trained in Edmonton and Waterloo.

Most recently, Sudlovenick, with the rest of Arctic UAV's team, traveled to the Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence test range at Alma, Que., to conduct the first mission under a new Transport Canada contract.

"Later in the year I'll be going to Holland to get trained on the helicopter you see there, the HEF 30. But the one we'll be getting is the HEF 32, the upgraded model. It's a new one, made by High Eye," said Sudlovenick.

Calling himself and chief of strategic partnerships Ken Spencer "old farts," Glenn Williams, chief of operations for Arctic UAV, says it's youth such as Sudlovenick who are the future of this high-tech industry in Nunavut.

"I've known Keane for a long time. He was a high-school graduate who was looking for summer work. So we did a couple of projects together, and I think he likes it," says Williams.

He says there is a lot of opportunity for young people in Nunavut interested in a career working with drones.

"I could envision in the future a forward operating location here for drones that the Canadian government has," says Williams.

"And we could fill those positions and jobs with young people from here. That would be a high-tech industry that young Northerners don't have to go south to have employment opportunities."

Sudlovenick recalls operating remote control cars and boats before getting into UAVs.

"But I wasn't really tech savvy. I played video games all the time but that was pretty much it," he said.

"I wasn't really aware of the drone industry but, after school, Glenn kind of told me about what they want to do and I jumped on the opportunity."

Sudlovenick is also very comfortable on the land, which is where much of the current and future UAV applications take place.

"I go hunting all the time, boating, out by snowmobile," he said. "It does go very well together. Sometimes we're out there for a week, taking pictures and videos."

Asked what Sudlovenick sees for the future, he says, "Potential business growth. Say the GN (Government of Nunavut) utilized our mapping skills . it would be great for surveying. It's way, way more accurate than how it's done now."

Plus, he loves the work.

"After a year of working here . I thought this would be all normal to me, but it's still really exciting," said Sudlovenick.

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