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Navajo Nation launches drone to deliver medical supplies to Navajo residents

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona– The Navajo Veterans Memorial Park “Healing Eagle Feather” drone, designed to bring medical supplies and other essentials to Navajo residents, was launched on Sunday.

President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer attended the launch along with Dr. Rudy Shebala, Executive Director of the Division of Natural Resources, and officials from 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 mini-like MG Velos 100 aircraft helicopter. Each of the 14-pounder deliveries was successful and proved the drone’s ability to deliver to those residing in the most remote areas.

The packages were assembled by pharmacists, veterinarians, members of the Navajo Technical University Culinary Arts Program and first responders. They included items such as pre-packaged meals, emergency communication devices, large animal medications, insulin kits and anti-venoms.

“It is truly an honor to be part of this historic day where we see the coming together of government thinking and the entrepreneurial world to serve our great Navajo people. Working with world-renowned entrepreneurial minds like Mark Atlan and Scott Plank always pushes me to ask how we can find parallel opportunities to maximize our land, resources and workforce. I am grateful to serve as a link between these people and hope that we can continue to think outside the box as we overcome the nation’s challenges,” Vice President Lizer said.

Vice President Lizer coordinated with these companies to secure the resources needed to make these drone deliveries possible.

President Nez predicts the new drone effort will prove essential in emergency situations, saving valuable time.

“We are now over 402,000 people as Navajo people, and we have a lot 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 ranging from engineering to emergency medical care,” said President Nez. “Just yesterday, it took us a whole team to help a family, who had found themselves stranded in a rural area, get them food and get them out of the mud. You can imagine how many more of our employees find themselves in the same boat that this technology will help.

The drones use the latest technology with a flight range of over 20 miles and solar powered technology. They are designed to follow automated flight paths despite varying weather conditions.

President Nez plans to use this technology to improve geological surveys, rural addressing, and perhaps even to deliver ballots. The drones were used in the summer of 2021 to assess monsoon flood damage in Birdsprings, Arizona, and again when a wildfire hit Shiprock, New Mexico.

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Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean