Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

While some drone delivery efforts appear to be little more than a box dangling on the end of a string connected to a store-bought quadcopter, a growing number of companies are getting serious about putting in place full-fledged platforms that include not only specially made flying machines, but also air traffic control systems to ensure safety in the sky.

One such outfit is Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), which has just signed a deal with a remote First Nation island community to begin drone deliveries in the spring of 2019. Local officials have given the service the green light after two years of testing.

Moose Cree First Nation, located close to James Bay about 500 miles north of Toronto, will use the service to deliver medicine supplies, food, and mail from the town of Moosonee to purpose-built depots on Moose Factory island (population 1,500), located across the water about 1.5 miles away. Traditional transportation between the two communities includes an ice road in the winter and boats in the summer.

The autonomous drone can carry a payload of up to 5 kilograms (11 pounds), with the consignment placed inside a box located at the base of the flying machine.

Described as DDC’s most expansive effort to date, the Moose Factory project involved leading engineers in the drone industry, as well as personnel from Transport Canada and the National Research Council, with the aim of building a complete infrastructure solution for drone delivery.

DDC gained permission to fly along a pre-approved route inside active airspace and will operate the service according to Canadian aviation regulations. Flights are monitored by DDC’s proprietary flight management system back at its headquarters in Toronto, and also by a mobile command center in Moosonee.

Stan Kapashesit, Moose Cree First Nation’s director of economic development, Kapashesit told CBC he hopes the project will prove beneficial to the cost of living while also providing an economic boost to the communities through job creation and training opportunities.

DDC boss Tony Di Benedetto said his company’s technology has the potential to help similar isolated communities.

“It’s really about trying to service communities that lack infrastructure, where basic goods are very difficult to obtain, and when you can obtain them it is very, very expensive,” he told CBC.

Tough regulations mean that full-fledged drone delivery operations in urban areas are still a ways off, but launching such services for quieter locations like Moose Factory is a useful way to test and develop the technology, and can provide a stepping stone to more advanced services along the lines of those proposed by ecommerce giant Amazon.

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