By Ty Burke

In celebration of Carleton University’s 2023 Throwback week–a homecoming for alumni and community members–we sat down with seven alumni to see where they are now. Their stories moved us and reminded us of the impact our engineering and design alumni have on creating technology for good, sustainability, health and wellness, and social innovation.

Changing the Skies

The distance between Northern Communities is vast. Many are only accessible by air, so everything needs to be flown in. That contributes to grocery prices that are very high, and a delivery schedule that’s vulnerable to all kinds of disruptions.  But a cargo airline start-up co-founded by a Carleton aerospace engineering graduate wants to use autonomous aviation to make deliveries more frequent and reliable.

“Today, relatively large aircraft serve these communities, but with large planes comes infrequent service,” says Carl Pigeon, the co-founder of Ribbit.

“And if there are disruptions to the air network, communities won’t get any fresh food. Autonomous planes allow us to use small aircraft that wouldn’t normally be economically viable, and drastically change the economics of delivering to these communities. You could have a consistent flow of goods that’s much more resilient to service disruptions.”

Carl Pigeon, Co-Founder of Ribbit, Carleton aerospace engineering alumnus.

Ribbit is seeking to develop four major bases of operation in Goose Bay, Labrador; Sioux Lookout, Ontario; Thompson, Manitoba; and Iqaluit, Nunavut. From these, they’d serve 50-70 Northern Communities.

“About 80% of what gets flown into northern communities is food, and we focused on onboarding food wholesalers as our first customers,” says Pigeon.

“They will take orders online or by phone, and we work directly with them to ship goods at a higher frequency.”

Pigeon completed his Bachelor of Engineering in aerospace engineering at Carleton, and credits a 16-month co-op with Ottawa aerospace company Gastops as important preparation for life as an entrepreneur.

“The co-op program played a huge role in setting me up for success,” says Pigeon.

“I had an excellent mentor named Jim Percy. He offered me a lot of support, and gave me my first glance at what is it like to build, develop and certify products for aviation, which is what I do today. I am forever grateful for that.”

Want to participate in Carleton’s 2023 Throwback events? Visit the alumni website to learn more.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 in , , ,
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