Canada is expected to launch the first commercial drone delivery service in North America by transporting mail, food, and other products to a remote community in northern Ontario.
More than 1,400 members of the Moose Cree First Nation live on the isolated Moose Factory Island and in the community of Moosonee across the Moose River. The island is located just south of James Bay. Because the Islanders are so secluded, detergent costs as much as $30 to $40, milk costs twice as much as it does in Toronto and Ottawa, and fresh produce is also costly, reports the Toronto Star.
According to Stan Kapashesit, director of economic development for Moose Cree First Nation, residents on the island currently receive commercial goods via barge and helicopter (which cost around $1,800 an hour). In the winter, products are also delivered by vehicles that are driven over the frozen Moose River, but global warming has made that option increasingly risky.
Patricia Faries, chief of Moose Cree First Nation, commented: “We’re always trying to look for solutions, we’re always trying to look for opportunities and that we’re open to this kind of innovative ideas and forward-thinking companies that could help us serve our people, improve the quality of life for Cree people.”
Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) has been working with federal regulators and community stakeholders to get approval to test its service in the next four weeks. They have secured commercial flight certificates and are seeking a Special Flight Operations Certificate, which is required by Transport Canada. DDC is in the process of establishing a flight path, which is also required for commercial planes.
Tony Di Benedetto, CEO of DDC, noted, “Drones provide immediate capacity building and provide an alternative to traditional infrastructure where none presently exist.”
The ultimate goal is to deliver products to the island in a quick, cost-effective manner. According to Fortune, DDC teamed up with researchers from the Universities of Toronto and Waterloo to develop the technology that allows the fully autonomous drones to be operated by personnel on the ground who are out of the line of sight of the device.
The Sparrow drone is capable of carrying 4.5 kilos of goods. It will launch from Moosonee, cross the Moose River, and land on Moose Factory Island—a distance of 10 kilometers. The delivery will take approximately five minutes from point A to point B. DDC also has a stronger drone that can carry nearly 1,500 kilos and can stay in flight for up to 15 hours. The drones can fly as high as 40,000 feet but will likely remain between 500 to 1,500 feet high.