Don Arney is an inventor and businessman from British Columbia, Canada, whose unique approach to solving problems has resulted in a series of products used around the globe.
His most widely adopted invention; the Bambi Bucket is used in aerial fire fighting and has helped save millions of hectares of forest as well as many lives and properties. It is used in 110 countries worldwide and has become the standard in helicopter fire fighting.
In 1978 Don founded SEI Industries to market his inventions. He has overseen the growth of SEI and its various product divisions to worldwide sales and success. His innovative, creative thinking has underscored his many environmentally responsible and innovative products.
Don was born in Prince Rupert BC in 1947 and lived there until he was eight years old. As a child his family moved for his father’s work in construction and so he lived in various places on Vancouver Island including Port Alberni, Chemainus, Nanaimo and Victoria. Don now resides on Salt Spring Island.
He attended Simon Fraser University where he graduated with a B.Sc. in Biology. After university he lived in North Vancouver where he founded SEI in May 1978. The company moved to a facility in Richmond in 1984 and eventually to their current location in Delta BC. The Bambi was launched to a worldwide audience at the Helicopter’s Association International annual trade show in January 1984.
His knack for making things and building was there from the start. “As a kid I was always tinkering and building things. I had a mechanical aptitude,” says Don.
When he was 16 he worked as a motorcycle mechanic and in a garage doing standard auto maintenance. He was always able to see an alternate way of doing something mechanical.
Becoming an inventor was not a decision he made, recalls Don. “I think I was born that way.”
Flying has been an interest for Don throughout his life. He earned his pilot’s license in 1976. In 1977 he co-founded the Hang Gliding Association of BC. In 1999 he earned his helicopter pilot’s license.
Although he spends less time in the office, he is still involved in the company while focusing on his latest inventions and philanthropic work.
Don enjoys volunteering his time and resources to fly researchers to remote areas of BC via his helicopter so that they can do environmental/ biological/ ecological studies.
Of this work with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Pacific Wild, Don says: “I get to work with very bright young scientists who are passionate about protecting and researching the environment. It provides me an opportunity to get to know leaders and members of first nations who are involved in these research projects and allows me to see parts of our beautiful province I would otherwise never get to visit,” says Arney.
Don’s most recent invention is the HangBoard -- which he hopes will give rise to an exciting downhill winter sport adopted around the world. The product is in Beta testing as he seeks a business and marketing partner. See www.hangboard.ca
When asked what he is most proud of in his career, Don says “inventing useful things - especially the Bambi Bucket that has stood the test of time and has saved many lives and property.”
Don’s inventions have made a difference to people around the world and his creative, generous spirit has impacted the many people that have worked for him and along side him in his companies and his volunteer work in BC.
Awards and citations Don has received
Recipient of Canada's foremost recognition for design innovation, the Ernest C. Manning Award, 1986
Listed in the B.C. Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians 2005
Don’s company SEI was the Winner of the BC Export Award for 2003
1986 - Ernest C. Manning Award
The Manning Innovation Awards, named in honor of the late Ernest C. Manning, former Alberta premier and Canadian senator, was incorporated as a not-for-profit society in 1980 to stimulate, encourage and reward deserving Canadian innovators for their personal accomplishments that have widespread social and economic benefit to Canada.
“1986 Don Arney: Revolutionized the helicopter firefighting industry with his Bambi bucket, now the world standard in the industry. Award of Merit Fire Fighting, BC.” Text from the Manning Awards website.
2005 - BC Almanac, Book.
The BC Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians by Mark Forsythe & Greg Dickson…”The BC Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians is a spirited celebration of the people who built the province.” Text from the publishers website.
“Arney’s Bambi Bucket – that large bucket dangling from the bottom of the helicopter as it drops water on forest fires – is the world standard in firefighting helicopter equipment. Arney started working on his invention on an apartment balcony and then a garage. And gradually transformed it into a multi-million dollar enterprise with a range of products that help the environment, save forests and save lives.” Steven Beck. Page 72, Outstanding BC Innovators.
2003 - BC Export Award, awarded to SEI Industries
“BC Export Awards recognize the innovative approaches and unique contributions of British Columbia export companies across all sectors and in all regions of the province, as well as the individuals who contribute to their success. The BC Export Awards annually seeks out BC's Top 25 Exporters and honours them for their excellence and achievement in nine categories… The Awards is co-hosted by the Government of British Columbia and the BC Division of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and is the oldest awards ceremony of its kind in Canada."
MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS Winners: SEI Industries Ltd.
SEI Industries Ltd. was incorporated in May 1978 as a product development/ marketing company. Since January 1983 the company has specialized in the design, manufacturing, marketing and commissioning of structural engineered fabric products and related systems to the aviation, remote site logistics supply, environmental, and firefighting industries. Today, SEI Industries operates from a full service manufacturing facility over 20,000 square feet (1,160 square metres) in size, located near Vancouver, B.C. and is Canada's leading producer of specialty fabrics-based industrial products.” Text from the BC Export Awards Website.