A Canadian non-profit is helping indigenous peoples of Alberta soar – as drone pilots.
Project Safe Canada, a group that includes security professionals, has so far empowered 71 pilots on eight reserves to obtain advanced certification from Transport Canada to help monitor indigenous territories and document any encroachment by developers.
Many Canadian indigenous reserves are in remote territories containing vast forests or industrial resources. That can often lead to logging issues and right-of-way disputes for pipelines and power lines.
“Indigenous communities remain marginalized and lack the ability to consistently monitor their territories or provide credible evidence and seek redress,” PSC Director Mark Palka said.
“Drones are effective, powerful, low-cost tools that indigenous peoples can use to monitor, map, and protect their territories and natural resources,” he added.
“For indigenous peoples the endless and growing list of applications using drones can provide the community with a first-mover advantage to service these emerging applications.”
Indigenous pilots can deploy drones to collect and process data into maps and other modeling that can be used in official investigations. “[Drones] have the potential to change the power dynamic and give them the ability to collect evidence to protect their rights and lands,” Palka said.
Last year, PSC partnered with Norquest College’s Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Centre in Ermineskin Cree Nation to help students obtain their basic or advanced drone certification. Many of the new pilots work in security or fire prevention. They can now bring those skills to their professions or contract out to other companies.
Training includes everything necessary to be licensed, but also includes curricula focused on data collection, mapping and modeling. A program scenario could include a simulated oil spill several miles within a remote area where a drone can be used to capture data in minutes instead of hours.
Coursework also covers fire prevention, PIX4D mapping thermal-sensor surveillance and grid creation, search and rescue, as well as inspection modules for wind turbines, power lines and pipelines.