Jan 24, 2022, 11:16 AM | Updated: 2:04 pm
BY ELIZA PACE, KSL TV
WINDOW ROCK, Arizona— The “Healing Eagle Feather,” drone at Navajo Veterans Memorial Park, designed to bring medical supplies and other essential items to Navajo residents, launched Sunday.
President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer witnessed the launch along with Dr. Rudy Shebala, Executive Director of the Division of Natural Resources, and officials with ZappCare, a Native American-owned technology company and officials from MissionGo.
MissionGo founder, Scott Plank, and ZappCare CEO Mark Atlan, simulated four deliveries with a variety of food, medical and emergency items using the MG Velos 100 aircraft which looks like a mini helicopter. Each of the 14 pound deliveries was successful and proved the drone’s ability to deliver to those who reside in the most remote areas.
The packages were assembled by pharmacists, veterinarians, members of Navajo Technical University’s culinary arts program, and first responders. They included items like prepackaged meals, emergency communication devices, large animal medicine, insulin kits, and anti-venom.
“It is truly an honor to be part of this historic day where we see the bridging of government thinking and the entrepreneurial world to serve our great Navajo People. Working with world renowned corporate minds like Mark Atlan and Scott Plank always pushes me to ask how we can find parallel opportunities to maximize our land, resources, and manpower. I am grateful to serve as the connection between these individuals and hope we can continue to think outside the box as we overcome the Nation’s challenges,” Vice President Lizer said.
Vice President Lizer has been coordinating with these companies to get the resources to make these drone deliveries possible.
President Nez anticipates the new drone effort will prove essential in emergency situations, saving valuable time.
“We are now over 402,000 strong as the Navajo people, and we have plenty of professionals and young people who know how to use this technology to help our people. I see this opportunity as one of many ways to bring our bright, young minds home to serve their people using disciplines from engineering to emergency medical care,” President Nez said. “Just yesterday, it took a whole team of us to assist one family, who had been stranded in a rural area, with food and pulling them out of the mud. You can imagine how many more of our people find themselves in the same boat that this technology will help.”
The drones use the latest technology with an over 20-mile flight radius and solar-powered technology. They are designed to follow automated flight paths despite varying weather conditions.
President Nez anticipates using this technology to improve geological surveying, rural addressing, and maybe even to deliver voting ballots. The drones were used over the summer of 2021 to assess flood damage caused by monsoons in Birdsprings, Arizona and again when a wildfire struck in Shiprock, New Mexico.