Xwing, the first company to deploy autonomous software for air cargo planes, on Friday announced that it has successfully completed a 730 mile-long cargo delivery trip from Northern California to the Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the United States, home to more than 300,000 residents.
This marks the first and longest autonomous large air cargo delivery in the history of air transportation. Onboard the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan was hundreds of pounds of hospital grade-PPE masks and gowns, school supplies, educational tablets for kids, and masks for kids.
The aircraft departed from Buchanan Field Airport in Concord, California, and landed at Winslow–Lindbergh Regional Airport.
With more deaths per capita than any U.S. state, the coronavirus has particularly devastated the Navajo Nation in part due to various compounding issues such as unreliable road infrastructures, unregulated water sources, and a lack of access to basic medical care and supplies.
In response, Xwing teamed with Protect Native Elders, a volunteer-based inter-tribal organization that offers necessities to Native American communities and Get Us PPE, a doctor-led non-profit that provides PPE to frontline workers. Osmo and USA Envision Us, contributed educational products, tablets and masks.
“The situation is dire for residents of the Navajo Nation,” says Marc Piette, CEO of Xwing. “We do regular flight tests with this autonomous aircraft that has the capacity to deliver meaningful assistance to communities in need. It was a no-brainer to combine these two activities with the assistance of organizations on the ground.”
Through this initiative, Get Us PPE facilitated a donation of PPE including 2,000 impermeable gowns and face masks that will be deployed to Indian Health Service centers with the aim of providing hundreds of frontline workers with the supplies needed to safely perform their job duties.
“When we talk about donating and delivering PPE to communities in need, we’re talking about saving lives,” says Dr. Shikha Gupta, Director of Development and Communications at Get Us PPE. “As the PPE crisis progresses, it’s increasingly becoming an equity issue. Well resourced facilities are able to source the PPE they need, but under-resourced communities and organizations are still facing serious shortages. Get Us PPE was excited to collaborate with Xwing and Protect Native Elders to get PPE to the Navajo Nation.”
“It takes a village to make a change in the world; it takes a community to uplift those in need. Many indigenous communities have been overlooked for decades as it relates to basic needs such as food, water, health, and infrastructure. We applaud technology innovators such as Xwing for seeking ways to help address these disparities and applying their technology in support of others. Solving such economic and social challenges requires all of us to unite and work together for the betterment of others,” says Bleu Adams, Navajo activist, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Protect Native Elders.
In addition, 50 Osmo devices and accompanying Amazon Fire Tablets donated by Osmo will go to schools and community hubs such as STAR School, Rocky Ridge Market, and IndigeHub for kindergarten to fourth-grade students who are faced with learning in an entirely new socially-distant classroom environment. What’s more, many kids are using this advanced technology for the first time having never had access to tablets and learning apps before.
“This pandemic has brought into focus the huge digital divide that the Navajo communities we serve are facing. The help that we are receiving directly from Osmo in the form of digital devices and high-quality educational software is so appreciated. Our resource teachers are excited about this gift because the hands-on approach of this software, they believe, will be especially helpful in serving our special education students remotely,” says Mark Sorensen, CEO at The STAR School in Flagstaff, Arizona.
This delivery was made possible through Xwing’s Autoflight System which retrofits existing aircraft to convert planes into optionally piloted vehicles. Unique to Xwing is its first-of-its-kind onboard flight control systems that allow the aircraft to navigate, take off and land autonomously, and avoid other aircraft, ensuring more cost-effective operations for cargo deliveries.