Tomas Tales: CMS Takes To The Skies for Traffic Management.

Brubaker and Drone 1 April 27 16Brubacker and Drone 2 April 27 16April 28, 2016
Look up.
Look WAY up!

Getting 65 thousand fans in and out of the Canadian Motor Speedway complex quickly and efficiently requires a highly detailed traffic management plan that’s a vital component of the overall CMS site plan.

So following the ideal of a sport-changing, world class speedway and entertainment facility, CMS Project Manager, Professional Engineer Ken DePodesta jumped to the phone recently, and told me to get to the intersection of Garrison and Ridgemount roads, adjacent to the CMS site in Fort Erie.

Ken, who like me, tends to lean to the excitable side, told me to bring a camera and my Raceline Radio recording equipment, and to hurry up to witness a new cutting-edge land survey system I just had to see!

We’ve all seen land survey crews, those small scurrying battalions of hard-hatted florescent-vested workers looking through telescope-like attachments atop tripods, writing down readings and numbers.

And while collecting survey data for the 15 kilometer network of local and municipal roads that will carry customers to and from CMS will still require some ground work, a majority of the data collected will come from an eye in the sky.

DePodesta, in consultation with CMS Executive Director Azhar Mohammad, contracted Strata Aerial Surveys who fly The senseFly eBee UAS ( Unmanned Aerial System ) drone, to take a very different, high-tech approach to the task.

It’s a compact, light weight, camera-carrying, computer guided fixed wing, single prop-driven drone that’s flown and controlled via a lap top computer on the ground.

On a typical job, it takes approximately four thousand Google Earth-like photographs of the average site to compile a topographic rendering of the area being surveyed for a fraction of the cost of an all-ground survey in less than half the time with the same accuracy.

While a typical ground-based land survey can take up to two to three weeks to complete, at a cost of around $ 8,000 a meter for a total of $ 40,000, the aerial survey takes only two days of flying and just two more days to process the photographs into one seamless rendering with pinpoint accuracy, at approximately half the price tag.
David Brubacher runs it all from a lap top computer in the field. Showing me how the drone works, flies and takes photographs was utterly fascinating and if you want to use common vernacular, extremely cool!

And this is a one-man operation, working from one vehicle on the side of the road with a non-polluting battery-powered aircraft. No need for multiple idling vehicles, conforming to the Canadian Motor Speedway’s Green and Carbon-Neutral commitment.

And this is a local Niagara-centric initiative as well, satisfying another CMS mandate to utilize local manpower, skills and resources.

David and Strata hail from Kitchener, but the effort is in collaboration with Chambers and Associates out of nearby Welland.

Ken DePodesta has been working closely with both companies to bring them together for this surveying job, and for potential work on the CMS site down the schedule.

And because the drone is an airplane that has to confirm to Department of Transport regulations, I was also pressed into service as an observer, making sure the device didn’t interfere with low flying ultra-light aircraft, or mother nature’s masters of the skies, birds, didn’t “fowl” up the works!

Brubacher told me flights he’s taken have been intercepted by flocks of inquisitive starlings, murders of crows, or their larger raptor cousins, red tail hawks.

One red tail force him to abort a landing three times, as the hawk mistook the drone for dinner!

But the plane landed safely, photographs and data intact, as it did when I witnessed first-hand, this dazzling example of the advanced technology being used to put The CMS plan to paper that will eventually become brick and steel reality.

My old love for radio controlled aircraft, and just aircraft in general made this a fabulous day in the field from the aspect of Media Consultant for Canadian Motor Speedway, and for exclusive coverage across The Raceline Radio Network.

Tale Pipes: The CMS aerial survey story, complete with a full length interview with CMS Project Manager Ken DePodesta, will air across The Raceline Radio Network the week of May 15th. A list of Network affiliates and broadcast times is featured on The Raceline Radio Network Facebook page. It will also be available via podcast via this link:


Tomas Tales: Niagara College Receives 1.4 Million for Automotive Lab

NC $Tomas Tales April 26, 2016

Well a big thumbs up from here!

Niagara College has picked up $1.4 million dollars in provincial funding for a Green Tech Automotive Lab from Ontario’s Apprenticeship Enhancement Fund program.

The 3,600-square-foot Green Tech Automotive Lab will be an extension of the existing automotive facility at the Welland Campus’s Rankin Technology Centre.
It will include open bays, a work area and classroom, and will house the latest in green automotive technology, including electric charging stations, alternate fuel technology, diagnostic equipment, green technology simulators and electric and hybrid vehicles.

College President Dan Patterson says Niagara College is a leader in sustainability and they are pleased to build on the renewable technologies offered through the automotive programs and are grateful for the Provincial Government’s investment.

Construction of the Green Tech Automotive Lab will begin this June, with completion slated for March of next year.

Niagara College has a long-standing partnership with Canadian Motor Speedway, signing a memorandum of understanding in July of 2014 that covers a broad range of areas to create hands-on learning and research opportunities for students.
NC’s Motive Power applied research program opportunities with CMS may include the testing of green-energy vehicles, co-op placements, recruitment events and collaboration with other post secondary institutions.

In addition, The College’s food and hospitality related programs will also utilize CMS events and functions for learning and practical experience.

It’s been a mandate of Canadian Motor Speedway to establish long-term partnerships with world class and Ontario-based educational institutions that can broaden the scope of the research and development component of CMS, taking all involved to a higher level of excellence.

It’s outstanding to see The Provincial Government support a CMS partner with the funds they need for vital improvements and advancements.

Tale Pipes: Merrittville Speedway St.Catharines/Thorold has just launched their 65th consecutive season, long established as Canada’s oldest and longest operating dirt track. Ransomville Speedway, under new ownership, lifts the lid on season 59 May 6th, with Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne swinging open their gates for their 57th campaign May 1st.

“The Colonel” Leaves a Lasting Legacy on Niagara Clay!

Kurt at AceMost know my racing roots are planted around the dirt tracks in The Niagara Region of Southern Ontario.

Those roots became personal close to 30 years ago when I married Janice Lynn Uhl, who’s father Kurt was already a major player in the dirt track stock car racing landscape in Niagara, first as a car builder and mechanic, and then as a track owner and promoter.

My Father-in-Law was a big wheel in the sport I loved. Handy indeed.
On Friday April 9th, after a short courageous battle with kidney failure, Kurt Alfred Uhl of St. Catharines completed his tasks on earth in his 81st year with family and friends at his bedside at The St.Catharines General Hospital.

The deep sadness over his departure is soothed as we remember Kurt’s unfailing kindness, generosity, sense of humour, huge laugh and a love for the good things in life.

And one of those things in life he loved was racing on clay ovals with the co-ownership and operation of Merrittville Speedway in St.Catharines, Canada’s oldest and longest operating dirt track, and Ransomville Speedway, a short hop across the Niagara River in Ransomville NY.

Merrittville opens their 65th consecutive season of operation this month. Ransomville’s history traces back close to that total, so Kurt’s role in their longevity is well documented, as Uhl and his long time friend, the pre-deceased Stan Friesen operated Merrittville and Ransomville simultaneously for 13 years in the 70’s and 80’s, keeping the gates wide open on an international scale.

Kurt was born in 1935 in Waldheim Saskatchewan, with his family moving to St.Catharines when he was 6 years old.

Out of Thorold High School, Kurt entered the automotive trade and opened his own business, Ace Alignment in 1966 in St.Catharines.

Shortly after, with their friend Neil Sharp, Kurt and Stan joined the burgeoning Niagara stock car racing scene, campaigning late models and sportsman coupes and coaches with great success at Merrittville Speedway, Humberstone Speedway and Speedway Park.

After leaving the racing to younger hands, Kurt and Stan’s ownership of Merrittville and Ransomville came into major prominence when they joined Glenn Donnelly’s fledgling DIRT of Western New York sanction, designed to align Canadian and American Dirt Modified, Sportsman and Late Model rules and administration.

The Uhl-Friesen racing empire doubled in size in 1972 with the acquisition of Ransomville Speedway in the small upstate New York town of Ransomville, a short drive from Niagara Falls NY.

The Uhl and Friesen families played a critical role in this history as the wives and children were counted on to help run the speedways, working the concession stands, selling programs, and helping to maintain the tracks’ racing surface.

The kids grew up at the family tracks. I arrived on the scene in the 70’s as co-announcer with the late Gordie Wilson at both facilities. Miss Janice started in popcorn, graduated to hot dogs, then as a race official and scorer in the towers and that’s where we met.

They sold Merrittville in 1981, with Kurt relinquishing his involvement with Ransomville 6 years later.

The Friesen family carried on Ransomville ownership, with patriarch Stan Friesen passing away in 2012.

Late last year they sold “The Big R” to Buffalo interests.

Kurt’s departure to join his pal Stan at that great big dirt track in the heavens officially closes the Uhl-Friesen era of dirt track racing in Niagara/Western New York.

But Uhl’s influence in speedway operation is still prevalent. His track prep and detailed organization of speedway administration methods are still being used.

Ace Alignment remains a vital Niagara business thanks to Kurt’s guidance and vision.

He worked hard and he played just as hard.

Parties and laughter meant everything to Kurt, and “The Colonel’s” laughter will echo in our hearts forever.

“Now he belongs to the ages….”