ongoing research will assess whether such a system is
But, in the meantime, Canadian defense scientists
also are exploring the use of unmanned vehicles for
Arctic ISR operations.
One of the areas being worked on for such craft
involves mapping. Royal Canadian Navy ships on missions in the Arctic could carry the unmanned maritime
vehicles and release them in certain areas to map the
shore and seabed. Another concept would see an
unmanned maritime vehicle operating ahead of a ship
to determine what is in the water.
“We don’t have very good symmetry maps in the
north, and what we do have is 20 to 30 years old,” said
Dr. Mae Seto, a senior scientist at Defence Research
and Development Canada (DRDC) in Halifax, Nova
Scotia. “Because of climate change, the shorelines have
changed so these maps aren’t very up to date.”
The mapping of the Arctic is a priority for the
Canadian government as climate change means longer
periods of time where there is less ice in the region’s
waterways, she said. That, in turn, potentially means
more ship traffic, particularly in the Northwest Passage.
In September 2013, an ice-strengthened Danish
freighter carrying 15,000 metric tons of coal became
the first bulk carrier to traverse the passage.
The Northwest Passage is more than 1,000 nautical
miles shorter than the traditional shipping route through
the Panama Canal and using it saves time and fuel, the
ship’s owners, Nordic Bulk Carriers, said at the time.
In 2014, another bulk carrier, carrying nickel concentrate, sailed through the Northwest Passage to a
port in China.
“If we’re going to have a lot more maritime traffic
we’re going to need maps with fairly good fidelity for
safe navigation, if nothing else,” Seto said.
The DRDC has worked with the U.S. Navy, as well
as with universities such as the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., on the mapping of
Another concept more directly linked to gathering
information about vessels in Arctic waters would
involve unmanned maritime craft deploying sonobuoys
at specific locations.
“We’ve had the unmanned surface vehicle head off
with three sonobuoys and deploy them precisely
at the latitude and longitude we wanted them at,”
In a future scenario, the unmanned surface vehicle
would relay the information from the sonobuoy back
to a mother ship over the horizon or to an aircraft.
This summer, DRDC will begin another series of
experiments using the unmanned maritime craft in
Arctic waters, although details still are being worked
out, Seto said.
“They’re good assets for surveillance and reconnaissance,” she said. “They have a very low footprint.
People aren’t expecting them. And you’re operating in
an environment that is adverse both to divers and people. So they are ideal for this mission.” ;
SPECIAL REPORT / ISR & UNMANNED SYSTEMS
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 34 SEAPOWER / APRIL 2016
A Sea Robotics unmanned surface vehicle was used during Defence Research and Development Canada tests in the Arctic
in 2012. The tests were to examine how such craft operate in northern waters. More tests are planned for this summer.