Michael Zahra, Former President & CEO,

DRONE DELIVERY CANADA

"The time-critical delivery nature of some of the cargo in the mining industry makes our solution extremely relevant."

What is Drone Delivery Canada’s strategy to consolidate its presence in Canada and grow beyond it?

Drone Delivery is a Canadian company established in 2014. Our initial focus is Canada. We have supported international regulators with feedback as they write their regulations. Entering other markets in the US, Europe, Australia, South America and Asia is something we are actively looking at and we have some relationships in place. At the moment, we are not operating in any mines but the new Condor, the larger helicopter size gasoline-powered drone with a 200-km range and payload of 180kg, lends itself more to mining and we are excited to introduce it to the market.

How are your drone solutions applicable to the mining industry today?

Most mines are in remote areas, perfect for drone logistics. Our target markets also include oil and gas, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. The time-critical delivery nature of some of the cargo in the mining industry makes our solution extremely relevant. Condor will be introduced to the market in 2022, which can be used to transport samples, repair parts etc. The mining industry is not always an early adopter, but with drone delivery we expect that to change given the numerous obvious benefits to the industry. The use of our drones’ limits person-to-person contact, which is a fairly new demand that came with the pandemic. Mining camps may prefer to isolate and limit the number of external individuals visiting the camp as a precaution to avoid the virus spreading, but they need to maintain their supply chain so drones are a perfect unmanned solution.

Can you elaborate more on how you cater your software and hardware to each customer’s needs?

The system is fairly customizable and is sold as a turnkey, managed service. We own the hardware but we supply the solution so the customer has the benefit of the infrastructure we set up, such as the drones, depots, the software system called FLYTE, thus providing a full logistics solution. This all falls under our award-winning, patented intellectual property. The mine staff load and unload the cargo and we manage everything behind the scenes from our Operations Control Centre. The drone flies unmanned and automatically, while the customer just schedules the deliveries and manages the cargo. The system is pre-programmed with the customer’s routes. Drone depots can be set up where the drone takes off and lands in a secure environment or we can drop cargo where there’s no infrastructure.

Where does Canada stand on aerial delivery regulations and how is it evolving?

Canada’s airspace regulations outline the rules and we have a compliant operator status from Transport Canada, allowing us to fly projects within those rules. There are no specific lanes mapped for drones. Our solution allows us to detect other aircraft, drones and the weather to ensure safety. We have the ability to operate in complex airspace. For example, in Alberta we operate a project on airport property. The system runs unmanned automatically as it is pre-programmed based on a customer’s network of routes. However, we have human operators 24/7 monitoring our drones and local conditions like security, other aircraft, and weather. If there were an emergency or some anomaly in the local airspace at a particular project we are able to act to safely deconflict the situation.

Could you speak about battery life and how this impacts your operations?

Our new Canary has new battery technology that reduces the battery weight significantly. We’ve used the weight savings to add an aircraft parachute and other features. We expect a flight range of 20 km to 30 km, to be confirmed when we finish testing, and a cargo capacity of 4.3 kg. Mining companies can reduce costs, increase logistics efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint, as well as enhance safety, for example, to inspect blasting, sending drones as opposed to a manned vehicle. Our large gasoline-powered Condor drone is more cost effective and environmentally friendly than a traditional helicopter. Even though our drones are focused on delivery, they can also incorporate cameras or sensors for data collection.