Northern British Columbia First Nation launches pilot drone delivery of medical supplies

Stellat’en First Nation Chief Robert Michell says he is excited about a pilot project that uses drones to deliver medicine to his remote community in northern British Columbia

The First Nation is part of the $ 750,000 Remote Communities Drone Initiative – a collaborative project conceived in January with the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine and the village of Fraser Lake – to make medical services more accessible to rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project’s first drone lifted off Wednesday afternoon, traveling approximately four kilometers to transport health care supplies from the village of Fraser Lake to the nearby Indigenous community, located approximately 100 kilometers north of Prince George, B.C. .

“What we are planning… is transportation of drugs, transportation of prescriptions and other kinds of needs that our community may need,” Michell told Andrew Kurjata of CBC.

“The members have no means of transportation, and then with the influx of the COVID pandemic, it even restricts their movements … to recover the supply of drugs,” added the chief.

Stellat’en First Nation Chief Robert Michell says the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for its members to access medical services. (Stellat’en First Nation)

Michael Zahra – the president and CEO of Drone Delivery Canada, the company providing the drones for the pilot project – says the plane is about a meter long and a meter wide.

“The cargo is inside the drone, which is especially important for high value or high risk cargo,” Zahra said. “There are access control and security cameras, barcode scanners, a weather station and a variety of things, so it’s a turnkey solution and it’s a very safe and secure model. . “

Drone Delivery Canada CEO Michael Zahra says delivering medical supplies helps reduce stress in the Indigenous community. (Andrew Kurjata / CBC)

Zahra’s company has provided drones of medical supplies to three Ontario First Nations. He says the plane could help reduce stress for Indigenous elders by reducing trips to medical services.

“What we found in many First Nations communities was that they were using alternative methods like a ferry or even a very expensive helicopter, and they were taking someone from the community. Very stressful for the person. Very expensive, very inefficient.

“With a drone, you don’t have to deal with seasonal roads, traffic jams and the availability of a ferry, and that sort of thing,” he said.

UBC says members of the Stellat’en First Nation are trained to load and monitor drone operations. If the pilot project is successful, it could be extended to more isolated areas of the province.

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