Arctic Science Month

December is Arctic Science Month! Read a selection of stories on Defence Research and Development Canada scientists and researchers working in support of Canadian Armed Forces operational capabilities in the Arctic.

On this page

Arctic surveillance using electro-optical satellite constellations

Figures A and B are SkySat images of March 11 and 12, 2021. Figure C shows the detected changes between the two SkySat images. Text on image: Snow camp monitoring – Op-Nanook 2021.

DRDC is assessing how the Canadian Armed Forces could use electro-optical (EO) satellite constellations for monitoring Canada’s Arctic.

During the winter months, the Arctic’s low light levels and snow and ice cover are a challenge for traditional cameras as illustrated in the camp monitoring images A and B from Operation NANOOK 2021. In image C, the EO camera detects changes in the camp.

DRDC is advising on how this research could be integrated into Canadian Armed Forces operations, including examining whether EO commercial satellites could be used at a high latitude and adapting automatic monitoring tools for use in the Arctic.

Lead scientist: Dr. Josée Lévesque

Canadian Arctic Shipping Risk Assessment System (CASRAS) 

The Canadian Arctic Shipping Risk Assessment System (CASRAS) is used to improve route planning and make travel safer in the Arctic. DRDC collaborated on this project with the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada, as well as industry partners. Read more.

Climate change adaptation strategies 

A large group of snowmobiles travel across a snow-covered field.

DRDC’s Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA) supported the Canadian Army in developing adaptation strategies to reduce the threats associated with climate change on Canadian Armed Forces operations. After a threat and adaptation assessment by the Canadian Army, CORA defence scientists prioritized the threats and potential solutions. Dr. George Nikolakakos, Dr. Katherine Banko and Peter Gizewski worked with subject matter experts from the Canadian Army, including Director Land Environment and the Land Warfare Centre, as well as other key stakeholder organizations, to discern priority climate adaptation strategies for the Canadian Army to consider. Findings concluded that the top three priority areas for climate adaptation planning should include:

Other recommendations include additional Arctic training, expanded Canadian Rangers employment, exploring the establishment of an expanded Arctic base, conducting a review of essential equipment for potential use in the Arctic environment, and the continued pursuit of local Indigenous knowledge transfer and collaboration.

CORA is adapting the method used in this study into a climate change adaptation risk assessment framework that will enable the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces to enhance climate resilience well into the future.

Lead scientists: Dr. George Nikolakakos, Dr. Katherine Banko and Peter Gizewski

Earth observation monitoring system for Canada’s marine and coastal environments

A frozen bay with snow-covered mountains in the background. Text on image: Earth Observation Monitoring System for Canada’s marine and coastal environments

DRDC’s Centre for Security Science is working with its partners including the Canadian Coast Guard to improve long-term monitoring of marine pollution, ice conditions and coastal ecosystems in Canada’s coastal communities.

The goal is to develop a prototype that collects data from multiple earth observation satellites to give decision makers timely and actionable information in a web-based platform.

Extreme cold weather survival

Arctic survival

In support of Canadian Armed Forces Arctic operational capability, DRDC Toronto Research Centre is researching extreme cold weather survival. See how researchers measure temperature, dexterity and discomfort using a cold chamber at -40 degrees Celsius in this trial.

Video (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website)


History of Canadian Arctic Defence Science

A black and white photo showing a man looking down at the Tanquary Fiord camp and airstrip in 1971. A flag is planted in the snow next to him and he has rope strapped to his back.

IDEaS Arctic innovation challenges

A military camp on a snow-covered field.

Canadian innovators are advancing research and development to support Canadian Armed Forces capabilities in the Arctic through the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program.

Through previous challenges, IDEaS has invested:

Polar over-the-horizon radar

Poles stretch into the distance in a snowy field.

During a trial in September 2022, a DRDC-led team travelled to Canada’s Arctic to test polar over-the-horizon radar, which bounces radio waves off the ionosphere to see around the curvature of the Earth. Research into this ground-based system will improve continuous surveillance beyond line of sight, and contribute to a layered system-of-systems approach to improve situational awareness as part of NORAD modernization.


Support to Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 2022

Two men stand next to large pieces of ice.

DRDC’s hot water drills are used in support of Arctic Science when thick ice needs to be cut. In February 2022, DRDC technologists Ricky Vienneau and Michael Simms operated these drills to cut large holes through two-meter thick ice to support under-ice diving operations by the Canadian Armed Forces Fleet Diving Unit and other participants of the Dive Task Force during Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 2022 in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

The hot water drill system was designed by a DRDC predecessor, Defence Research Establishment Pacific, and uses the principles of a heat exchanger to melt cuts or “slices,” through very thick ice.

The ice removed from the dive hole weighed more than 2,000 kg and slices were more than a metre tall.

Back to top

Page details

Date modified: