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
- Canadian Arctic Shipping Risk Assessment System (CASRAS)
- Climate change adaptation strategies
- Earth observation monitoring system for Canada’s marine and coastal environments
- Extreme cold weather survival
- History of Canadian Arctic Defence Science
- IDEaS Arctic innovation challenges
- Polar over-the-horizon radar
- Support to Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 2022
Arctic surveillance using electro-optical satellite constellations
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
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:
- developing, reinforcing and expanding Canadian Army bases and supporting areas in the north;
- preparing for increases in domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and;
- adapting for a stronger military presence in the Arctic.
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
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
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 new book covering the period from 1947 to 2012 called The History of Canadian Arctic Defence Science is available on DRDC reports [PDF - 18MB].
- Revising the wind chill index was a DRDC achievement that helped the Canadian Armed Forces prepare for Arctic expeditions. Read more.
- From 1959 to 1985, more than 50 Black Brant rockets carrying sounding instruments were launched from Churchill, Manitoba and Resolute Bay, Nunavut, rapidly advancing knowledge of the ionosphere. Read more.
IDEaS Arctic innovation challenges
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:
- $6.6 million to improve human performance in extreme climatic environments such as the Arctic, including advancements in textiles and portable power sources that could help soldiers operate in extreme cold conditions
- $6.6 million to assist maritime lookouts to quickly and reliably detect, characterize, and track objects of interest, which includes navigational hazards such as ice in the Arctic
- $5.1 million for ground-based solutions to remove ice and frozen contaminants from aircraft
- $4.8 million for full spectrum communications for the Arctic, north of 65 degrees latitude;
- $3.4 million to develop smaller, ruggedized wind turbines for the Arctic
- $2.1 million to secure and monitor Canadian Armed Forces fixed ground-based assets operating remotely in the Arctic
Polar over-the-horizon radar
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
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.
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