A drone delivery company that has been completing test flights in Waterloo, Ont., says it wants to use the technology to get much-needed supplies to rural and remote parts of Canada.
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"Rather than focus on the pizza, let's try to focus where people can immediately benefit from this as an essential aid," Drone Delivery Canada's chief executive officer Tony Di Benedetto told CBC News.
If a person in one of these communities require antibiotics today, they only have a few options, he said. People can wait for next supply plane or charter their own plane, which can cost thousands of dollars.
"We can basically connect these communities," the executive said in reference to drone technology.
Better than anticipated
Di Benedetto and his team started the business in 2014. Their first drone could carry just 100 grams and would fly for five minutes. Now, the drones can carry in excess of 4.5 kilograms.
"Now, we're at a commercial phase where we can carry commercial-level payloads and flight times that are commercially viable," Di Benedetto said.
'Rather than focus on the pizza, let's try to focus where people can immediately benefit from this as an essential aid.' - Tony Di Benedetto, Drone Delivery Canada CEO
The test flights recently completed in Waterloo were very good, according to the CEO.
"We were over 40 per cent better than what we anticipated," he said. "We're hoping to increase that even further before the end of the year."
The University of Waterloo is a partner in developing the technology. Associate professor Sebastian Fischmeister is on the company's technical advisory board and focuses on the real-time embedded software, which Di Benedetto refers to as the "brains" of the drone.
Operate like an airline
The company is currently working with the federal government of Canada to gain operator status, which means they would be treated more like an airline than drone hobbyists who fly their devices to take pictures or do agricultural surveillance.
He said the federal government is expected to have regulations surrounding drones out by the end of next year, but they are hoping to get approval before then to begin flying.
Currently, Transport Canada has a number of restrictions surrounding drone use, including one that states the drone must be kept in sight with a person's eyes, not through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone. Also, drone operators cannot fly higher than 90 metres above the ground, within nine kilometres of an airport, heliport or helipad, or closer than 150 metres to people, animals, buildings or vehicles.
Di Benedetto said he was inspired to focus on rural and remote areas rather than delivering pizzas or mail packages because, in part, it seemed like a more realistic goal given the restrictions that surround drones in urban areas.
"I don't think the Amazon delivery service is going to fly anytime soon. The issue is the regulators," he explained. "There's too much testing that still has to happen."
'An immediate need'
The CEO noted that he recently spoke to an Aboriginal chief about what their drones can do and the chief said the technology would help them.
"A child actually passed away because they couldn't receive a puffer and [the chief] goes: 'This technology would be great in our parts of the world because it's an immediate need,'" Di Benedetto said.
"We want to bring this technology to these communities, potentially create employment within these communities, as well and train some youth," he added.
"If we can help them connect, build a business, bring good to these communities, help some of these kids along, we think we've made a mark in Canada."