Actions and Commitments

A First Nation in Alberta could soon have its health products delivered by drone

February 27, 2024

Montana First Nation partners with Edmonton airport, private contractor on project

A man kneels beside a drone. He removes a cardboard box from inside.
Montana First Nation in central Alberta First Nation could soon have prescriptions and other medical supplies delivered by drone through a new pilot project with Drone Delivery Canada and the Edmonton International Airport. (Camille Pauvarel/Radio-Canada)

CBC Indigenous: On a warm day in early January, council members from Montana First Nation gathered together to discuss a plan that could see the reserve, 90 kilometres south of Edmonton, have medical supplies delivered by drone.

The central Alberta First Nation is partnering with Ontario-based company Drone Delivery Canada and the Edmonton International Airport to pilot a new service starting this spring that will run over the next year to deliver prescriptions and other medical supplies.

It’s part of an initiative the First Nation launched in 2022 to be more self-sufficient through areas like food supply, green energy and localized healthcare. 

Ralph Cattleman, chief of Montana First Nation, said it can be difficult to obtain medical products and services because there are no pharmacies to serve the First Nation’s more than 1,000 members. The closest pharmacy is 15 kilometres away in Ponoka, a roughly three-hour journey on foot for people who don’t own a vehicle.

“If you go into town, you’re waiting for five hours to see a doctor … so this is a route we are taking to control our own health,” he said. “This service, I think it’d be a real good opportunity for everybody.”

A drone flies in the air.
Through the project, Drone Delivery Canada will fly prescriptions and other supplies from a clinic owned by Montana First Nation to an on-reserve clinic. (Camille Pauvarel/Radio-Canada)

Through the new agreements, valued at $417,000, Drone Delivery Canada will expand the defined route delivery from the airport with a stop at a medical clinic owned by Montana First Nation in Leduc. 

Prescriptions and other supplies will then be flown to an on-reserve clinic.

Sylvia Kolitsopoulos, director of sales and marketing for Drone Delivery Canada, said the expansion is phase two of an existing drone delivery project, which began at the Edmonton International Airport in May 2022 with a location to Pat Wilson Memorial Park in Nisku.

The project is the first-of-its-kind where cargo drones have been approved to operate at airports, Kolitsopoulos said. 

She noted First Nations communities would benefit from drone logistics because of the challenges they often face getting essential — and sometimes critical — supplies to remote areas. “Our drone can carry up to 10 pounds, so there’s a lot you can carry within those 10 pounds,” she said.

Drone package delivery hits the sky above Edmonton International Airport: 2 years ago, Duration 1:32

An unmanned drone is set to start making deliveries from a controlled airspace in Edmonton with a route that goes from the Edmonton International Airport to a location in Leduc, Alta. seven times per day.

Click on the following link to view the video:

During the first phase of the project, more than 2,400 flights were completed, with a total flight distance of over 6,500 kilometres, said Trevor Caswell, manager of demand and product development for cargo at the Edmonton International Airport.

He said drones have been flying in and out of Edmonton’s airport for several years, but this is its first cargo service.  “There’s a very cool wow factor when it comes to drone operations … but we also have to understand that the applications for drone operations in the future are real,” Caswell said.

“If you can fly it here in controlled airspace, the thought is that we can collaborate and share what we’re doing here so we can see it as a successful mode of transport in other airports, but in other remote areas of Canada where this application is very well needed.”

A man wears a blue dress shirt and a toque. He stands outside in front of two planes.
Trevor Caswell, manager of demand and product development for cargo at the Edmonton International Airport, said drones have been flying in and out of Edmonton’s airport for several years, but this is its first cargo service. (Camille Pauvarel/Radio-Canada)

Cattleman said he would like to see the service to eventually deliver other products. He also hopes this partnership opens the doors for other First Nations to take on similar initiatives. “The opportunities would be huge,” he said.


Aaron Sousa, Reporter

Aaron is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. Originally from Fredericton, N.B., he was editor-in-chief of his campus newspaper, The Aquinian. He enjoys creative writing, poetry, photography and music. He can be reached at

With files from Radio-Canada’s Camille Pauvarel