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Navajo Nation tests specialized drone for medical and emergency deliveries

Navajo drone
Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President
On Sat, Jan. 22, 2022 Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and other officials were on hand in Window Rock for the first flight of a drone called Healing Eagle Feather. It's capable of delivering medical and other emergency supplies to remote parts of the reservation.

The Navajo Nation has begun testing a specialized drone to deliver medical supplies and other essential items. Officials hope the technology could assist tribal members in remote or inaccessible parts of the reservation.

On a recent Saturday, President Jonathan Nez and other Navajo leaders gathered in Window Rock for the first flight of the Healing Eagle Feather drone. They simulated four deliveries and officials anticipate using the technology to distribute medical supplies like insulin along with meals, animal medicine, emergency communication devices and anti-venom.

Navajo drone 2
Navajo Nation Office of the President and the Vice President
Navajo Nation leaders witnessed the first flight of the Healing Eagle Feather drone in Window Rock on Sat, Jan. 22, 2022.

The drone could also assist communities that are cut off because of washed out or impassable roads after monsoon rain or heavy snowfall.

The solar-powered drone has a maximum capacity of 14 pounds with a 20-mile flight radius. Navajo officials say they could eventually deliver ballots to increase voter turnout on the reservation and use the drone for geological surveying and to improve rural addressing.

Similar drones are already in use in Southern California to inspect rural utility lines and assess damage.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.