When you visit Alexander First Nation, you’ll find there’s a lot to take in. From a strong sense of community to entrepreneurial spirit and educated youth, the community—located 17 kilometers west of Morinville—is rich with talent. But make sure to look up, too; some of the most innovative drone training and service in Canada is happening right now at Alexander, thanks to Darcy Hunt and Ivan Arcand.
Pilot and entrepreneur Darcy first became familiar with drone technology through his enterprise in Africa, although he hails from the Edmonton region and is a Bigstone Cree Nation member. After returning to Canada and to Alexander First Nation in 2016, he brought along his newfound passion for drone technology and piloting. He expanded his H&K Agents Ltd. enterprise and focused solely on drones, offering a range of services from geo-mapping and geo-exploration. He attained his own piloting license and after partnering with Alexander First Nation member Ivan Arcand, the pair began offering drone piloting training through Aboriginal Training Services.
With the community uptake of his business, and introduction to his business partner, Ivan, Darcy took his passion for drones a step further, and recently established Arcstein Air which flies drones, does aerial imaging, monitoring, inspections and mapping. The pair also offer training to local youth in the Nation. Both businesses are 100% Indigenous owned, operated, and growing thanks to the training program.
Darcy’s vision for drone technology is ambitious and achievable with the advanced capabilities he is developing across Alexander First Nation: “I would like to see Indigenous communities and organizations become leaders in this industry.” Why? “Drones will be mapping and monitoring this land, and as Indigenous peoples we have historically been caretakers of the land—why wouldn’t we be the leaders in this new technology to continue this role?”
The drone training that Darcy and Ivan offer to youth in the Nation is what really makes the company unique, and a lynchpin of the community. The flight school, which has a fully recognized independent pilot program, combines career-based thinking with inclusive training to provide young people with the skillsets required for different careers. This forward-thinking is just what youth in the Nation need to take them from high school, directly into fulfilling and successful careers.
Marcel Arcand, economic development officer, explained that per capita, Alexander has some of the highest graduation rates in the entire country, so there is a mass of young people with foundational skills who are seeking opportunity. “We want to make sure the skills we teach young people are marketable and can help them build careers,” he says, and the training Darcy is offering with drone technology is doing just that.
Darcy’s own skillset, and the training he offers to Indigenous youth is largely centered around regulations in the drone industry. He explained that recently, the Canadian government changed regulations for drones to allow for ‘beyond line of sight’ navigation. This allowance, along with further federal regulations being introduced, opens the possibility for new applications within the drone industry. These regulations and technologies also bring opportunity for his students and himself, as Darcy looks to expand his operations to carry out his Indigenous leadership vision. The flexibility and adaptability of his companies in this new and exciting time of drone tech boom is what will keep him on top of the game.
With these new regulations, training offered through Aboriginal Training Services, and the increasing demand for drone technology, the sky truly is the limit for this entrepreneur and his community. As Darcy continues his enterprises, he’ll be looking for investors, partnerships, and different ways to expand his drone piloting and training services. To learn more about Darcy and Ivan and their services, visit their website.