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Long-range drone to deliver food and medicine to Canada’s North

At a glance
The intern

Chen Qiu from Wuhan University in China

Hosted by

Professor Witold Kinsner at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering

The research

Developing a mathematics-based navigational system for a long-range, cargo-carrying UAV

For communities in rural Manitoba and Canada’s North, seasonal ice roads are a vital part of living remotely; however, climate change has caused them to form later or melt earlier than in previous years. Communities have had to charter aircraft to deliver basic foodstuffs and medicine — an expensive undertaking that is contributing to skyrocketing costs of living.

In response, local researchers and companies have partnered to develop a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). They hope to develop UAVs — commonly known as drones — that are robust enough to transport large cargo across vast distances without needing a pilot or GPS.

Chen Qiu

This summer, Globalink intern Chen Qiu from Wuhan University in China is contributing to this research under the supervision of Professor Witold Kinsner at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering. Because satellite-based GPS signals may be too weak or unstable to connect in remote areas, a drone must use mathematically derived path planning to navigate its course. Chen is helping to program and simulate advanced equations for the path planning system into the UAV’s computer. Her research is helping to bring northern-bound UAVs one step closer to reality.

The internship is giving Chen a first-hand look at research that meets community needs. “I am enjoying the collaboration with my professor and other research students,” she says. “Every week, we have meetings to discuss our progress and to work through any problems we have. It’s helping me to learn quickly and improve my research.”

Though she is only halfway through her internship, Chen already recognizes its value. “Mitacs Globalink offers students a great opportunity. This project is giving me exposure to new research that I would not have had otherwise. It’s also helped me prepare for my master’s degree, which I hope to do in Canada.”


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with international partners to support Globalink, including Universities Australia; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico; Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education; and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord.

Photo at top courtesy Flickr user Reel Youth. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence.