Looking to fly your drone, but frustrated with new Transport Canada rules about where you can do it? A B.C. First Nation thinks it has the answer.
It’s called Drone Territory, a new initiative of Cortes Island’s Klahoose First Nation, and Chief James Delorme thinks it has big potential as a source of 21st-century tourism dollars.
“We’re trying to get away from being so natural resource dependent,” he says of the program which took flight Saturday.
“We have a really spectacular territory, and what we’re hoping is Drone Territory will actually bring tourists to fly their drones safely within the new regulations that have come out, which we embrace by the way, in hopes that they’ll have beautiful experience in our territory in a safe environment that does not compromise our right to title and our wildlife.”
Those new rules forbid flying drones within 75 metres of any buildings, vehicles or people – meaning urban areas are essentially off limits and opening the door to “drone tourism.”
But the Klahoose ambitions go beyond just inviting aerial tourists into their territory. They’re also looking to specialize in drone technology and training their own indigenous operators.
Delorme says in doing so, they’re looking to offer production services to both companies and other First Nations, and marketing partnerships to other nations looking to build their own ecotourism industries.
The other half of the Drone Territory program is all about opening the door to the tech sector for First Nations youth.
Saturday’s launch event involved a drone pilot youth event, with flying demos and drone races.
Delorme says they’re hoping exposure can help set indigenous youth on a path to one of B.C.’s fastest growing industries.
“We’re also looking at how to reach out and get our youth more connected with the larger tech sector, the Silicon Valley-type companies that are using more modern technology like drones as part of their business model.”
And he says early results suggest the seeds are being planted – at least in the case of one young man at Saturday’s launch.
“The drone racers pinpointed us to him and said ‘this person is going to have a future with drones. He’s got all the skill sets. So what do you do? You make sure they’ve got the proper support, the proper encouragement, to make sure they’re going in that right direction. And you should have seen the look on this young man’s face. It was incredible how he lit right up the first time he started flying a drone. It’s a fish to water. Those little miracles are what we’re looking for.”
Delorme says the Nation now has the capacity to offer similar youth events in the future teaching basic skills, with the goal of nudging youth into more formalized training environments.