The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has partnered with Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy to explore, demonstrate, and evaluate the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles in coast guard icebreaking and maritime ice-monitoring operations.
Trials using a Schiebel Accepter S-100 platform were conducted in March of 2016 near Fogo Island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ship George R. Peakes.
"Our collaboration with federal agencies such as the Canadian Coast Guard is one of the ways NRC is helping advance unmanned aerial vehicle technology into new areas," said Ian Potter, Vice-President of Engineering at NRC. "Our knowledge and data analysis capabilities will help to inform future operational and funding decisions within the Government of Canada."
Through its Civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems program, NRC is providing technical capabilities and expertise on the assessment of unmanned aerial vehicles and establishing a roadmap for the adoption of the technology. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks and Memorial University are also participating to offer their expertise.
Unmanned aerial vehicles add tremendous support to marine operations by providing beyond visual line-of-sight situational awareness of ice conditions and prominent ice features such as ridges and shear lines, further improving response and monitoring capabilities in the industry. NRC analyses the data from these trials and produces final reports enabling subject matter experts to provide recommendations to decision makers based on the results of the trials. These evidence-based recommendations will open the door for the Canadian Coast Guard to further explore integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into its operations.
Possible applications of unmanned aerial vehicles across Canadian industries have only just begun to take flight. Through innovation and collaborative efforts, unmanned aerial vehicles are already being tested to improve marine safety. Several other trials by the National Research Council and Transport Canada have already shown success in operations along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology holds enormous potential when it comes to complementing coast guard operations.