A Salt Spring Island-based drone company has become the first in the country to legally to carry commercial goods by drone.
“If you think about drones like aircraft, until now, all we’ve had is basically people flying their [UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles] for fun and hobbies,” said Philip Reece, CEO of InDro Robotics.
The Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) has given InDro Robotics a licence to operate drones to carry cargo no heavier than 10 kg, up to 25 km away.
“Now with the integration of this licence, we can start thinking of drones like airlines,” Reece explained. “So, similar to Air Canada or WestJet, now they’re a commercial entity that can officially carry cargo.”
InDro’s researchers are working on increasing the distance allowed, hoping it will expand to 200 km in the future.
There are plenty of uses for this new licence, Reece explained, but door-to-door delivery isn’t feasible for another year or two.
“Online shipping delivery by drones is obviously something that is in the path, I mean it will happen,” he said. “I think we’ll see a few things before then.”
If someone who is on vacation forgot something they need at home, the drone can deliver it to them through a partnership with Harbour Air, for example.
“We get lots of calls for people in remote locations that need their medicine or they need keys or all those little things that people forget sometimes that are really important,” explained Meredith Moll, vice president of sales and marketing at Harbour Air Seaplanes.
With the drone delivery service, they could get whatever was forgotten to wherever the customers are — even if they’re on a boat.
“We could fly it over on a Harbour Air scheduled flight to one of our locations and then use the drone to take the item on from there,” she said.
Another example of the licence’s use, Reece added, is if someone’s car broke down. The item needs to be delivered to the car from the repair shop, and the drone could bring it straight there.
Reece said there are many other uses for drones besides commercial that they’ve spent years researching and developing.
Notably, in 2019, InDro Robotics successfully tested drone delivery of emergency medications over the Pacific Ocean, from Duncan B.C. to Salt Spring Island in 11 minutes.