Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) is set to begin delivering COVID-19 related supplies to the Georgina Island First Nation community in Ontario this month.
The Sparrow drone will fly a short distance between DroneSpots on the mainland and Georgina Island, carrying supplies like masks, testing swabs, hygiene kits and gloves, DDC President and CEO Michael Zahra said. Delivering supplies via drone rather than a ferry, which is typically how the community receives goods, will help limit person to person contact while keeping the supply chain open. The multirotor drone can carry about 10 pounds of payload.
Underlying health conditions and poor health care infrastructure leave indigenous communities like this one more susceptible to the coronavirus, Zahra said, making a drone delivery service attractive. The drone will travel back and forth between two DroneSpots multiple times a day, carrying cargo in both directions, including coronavirus tests that need to go from the island to the mainland for analysis.
The project is funded by the Canadian government through Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). While DDC has completed projects like this before, ISG is considering this a pilot to “confirm the effectiveness of using drones during a pandemic or a natural disaster,” Zahra said.
“In addition to running the system,” Zahra said, “we will provide reporting to the government on how many times we’re able to fly per day and what kind of cargo we’re moving.”
As the route is a short distance, Zahra anticipates the drone to fly every hour once the project begins, but the number of scheduled and on-demand flights will depend on the customer’s needs.
While DDC will operate the system at first, the team will train community members to load and unload the cargo and to complete inspections of the drone before it takes off and when it lands, Zahra said. This means community members will be exposed to a new technology and have an opportunity to gain new skills.
DDC is also working on a similar project with the Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) Community in Ontario. The Sparrow drone will deliver COVID-19 related cargo there as well, but in partnership with humanitarian agency GlobalMedic. Deliveries from the mainland to the island, again typically handled via ferry, will be made with the Sparrow drone. The three-mile route is completely over water, and flights will be both scheduled and on demand. Deliveries to the BFN community are expected to begin this month as well.
Both projects are slated to last for six months.