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Archived - Scientific Team Returns from Experimental Mission in the Arctic - New Insight about Use of Unmanned Technology for Future Arctic Operations

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September 04, 2014 - Ottawa, ON, Defence Research and Development Canada

A team of Department of National Defence (DND) scientists, technicians, and project staff have returned from a successful mission to test unmanned technology in Arctic conditions, the first time such an experiment has been undertaken in an Arctic environment.

The Canadian Armed Forces Joint Arctic Experiment (CAFJAE) Scientific Team, led by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), conducted a total of 34 experiments at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, using two unmanned ground vehicles and one unmanned air vehicle, to address some of the challenges the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) faces when operating in the Arctic, where infrastructure and population are sparse and where it is expensive to keep staff to operate and maintain equipment.

Quick Facts

  • The Joint Arctic Experiment 2014 team of 14 military and civilian DND personnel carried out experiments from August 18 to 26, 2014, at CFS Alert, Nunavut. 
  • Search and rescue, hazard mitigation, and communication capabilities were tested to determine if unmanned systems could be viable options to support future CAF operations.
  • The Joint Arctic Experiment examined issues such as: how to deploy these vehicles to the remote North; how this technology performs in the Arctic environment; and, how unmanned systems can extend the CAF’s ability to operate in this remote area. This will provide unique insight into new capabilities that might contribute to the CAF’s commitment to operating in the Canadian Arctic.
  • The CAF already uses unmanned vehicles for a range of missions, including responding to chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and explosive incidents, as well as to perform surveillance activities.


“I would like to extend my congratulations to the entire CAFJAE team for their innovative initiative of repurposing military research technology to advance Canada's ability to operate better in our Arctic. Our Government recognizes the importance of Canada’s Arctic, and the need for the Canadian Armed Forces to have the ability to operate in challenging Arctic conditions.”

Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence

“Experimental missions like CAFJAE are important in our quest to find new ways to meet the demands required to successfully carry out military operations in Canada’s Arctic.  This experimental mission in Alert clearly demonstratesthe potential opportunities and challenges that come with operating this technology.  It greatly benefits not only theCanadian Armed Forces, but also our government partners in the North.”

Dr. Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology, Department of National Defence

“Unmanned systems offer many potential benefits to the Canadian Armed Forces, but we must carefully study the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies before moving forward.  Our CAFJAE experience in Alert has shown that this technology could support some difficult tasks the CAF might need to complete in the Arctic.  The project team deployed vehicles into situations that might be dangerous or difficult for a Canadian Armed Forces responder at a remote location to support search and rescue and hazardous material operations.  For the team, the best lessons identify the real-world challenges the Arctic poses to these systems. These are lessons that guide our research and form our recommendations to the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Dr. Simon Monckton, Lead Scientist CAFJAE 2014, Defence Research and Development Canada

Associated Links

CFS Alert
Defence Research and Development Canada

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The CAFJAE unmanned ground vehicle team operates the Multi-Agent Tactical Sentry (MATS) UGV to deliver a sensor package at CFS Alert.

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