LOOKNorth: #UC19Ottawa’s Platinum Sponsor

By Scott Simmie

 Unmanned Systems Canada / Systèmes Télécommandés Canada (USC-STC) would like to express its gratitude to  LOOKNorth for taking on the extremely important role of Platinum Sponsor for UC19Ottawa.

 Sponsors play an incredibly significant part at our annual Conference and Tradeshow, and we’re honoured that an organization with the capabilities and profile of LOOKNorth felt it was fitting to take this on. So first of all, a very big “Thank You/Merci” to those behind the decision.

 If you’ve been to a recent USC-STC Conference, you’ve heard of LOOKNorth. You can check out their website for more details here, but LOOKNorth has been working closely with our organization – and also on projects involving several of our members.

LOOKNorth is a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), established by C-CORE under the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) with government and industry support. It’s been in existence since late 2010, with a specific mandate to foster technology development and commercialization. LOOKNorth’s specific area of emphasis is remote sensing technologies, particularly in and for Canada’s north, that support responsible, sustainable development. 

Their website describes LOOKNorth’s mission as “Supporting remote sensing innovation and commercialization; building Northern remote sensing capacity to address Northern needs”. LOOKNorth-supported innovative remote sensing applications can cover everything from precision agriculture, wildlife monitoring, monitoring ice movements and recession, and *much* more. Their commercialization-ready technologies include monitoring from ground or water based sensors, manned aircraft, RPAS and satellites.

And LOOKNorth is deeply involved in assisting remote sensing small and medium sized enterprises with the right tools to innovate and commercialize, often with partners.

“LOOKNorth exists to promote SME technology in the remote sensing arena, and seeks to help these companies commercialize their expertise” explains LOOKNorth Managing Director Paul Adlakha.

From LOOKNorth web site

Of course, remote sensing is a pretty broad area. But in recent years, LOOKNorth has worked closely with a steadily growing number of RPAS providers. LOOKNorth’s RPAS focus was developed in close collaboration with USC and that partnership remains strong today.

For example, LOOKNorth worked with an Alberta RPAS company that had a drone equipped with a sensor capable of detecting methane leaks from pipelines.  “We helped bring the SME together an oil company and provided some co-funding to support a technology demonstration. The SME was able to demonstrate their detection capability for the oil and gas company, with the goal of the oil company (and hopefully others) taking the technology into an operational context,” he says.  

Also, drone technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. RPAS are capable of long-range flight, as well as carrying a multitude of sensors for different use-case scenarios. LOOKNorth has not only worked with many companies using drones purpose-built for Canada’s northern reaches, but has also identified UAS that have proven themselves in southern Canada for potential sensing roles in the more rugged conditions of the north. 

There’s massive potential, but also the issue of regulations. BVLOS flights could open huge opportunities for the RPAS world…but the regulatory structure isn’t there yet. Transport Canada has been working with industry partners to determine how best to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft. That’s an ongoing process – one there’s a lot of hope will be resolved in the not-so-distant future. 

 “The inability to (routinely) operate BVLOS sets up a roadblock for Canadian RPAS operators,” says Adlakha. 

“We’ve tried to engage and foster, to move the needle by helping companies demonstrate that, when they can get a waiver, they can operate safely and efficiently. We’re also working to collect the kind of data that will help Transport Canada to establish the appropriate regulations for the industry. We’re convinced that regulation that safely enable BVLOS operations is a key barrier, and one that, together, Transport Canada and the industry can (safely) knock down in order for the Canadian RPAS industry to grow and thrive.”

 As always, of course, there’s that delicate balance between encouraging innovation and ensuring that safety remains paramount. But with greater redundancy, along with safety features like parachutes and developments in Sense & Avoid technology, that day will come.  

As for LOOKNorth and UC19Ottawa, Paul Adlakha says the sponsorship was a natural fit.

 “Well, the Conference really is a focal point for the Canadian RPAS industry,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for end users and SMEs to get together and network. It also brings government into the conversation.  

“Increasingly, for the end-user it’s the place they need to be, and it’s the right place for us to be.”

 We are pleased to welcome LOOKNorth in this key role – and encourage USC-STC members to seek out LOOKNorth representatives to discuss opportunities. While you’re at it, please pass along a nice “Thank You/Merci.”

Thanks, LOOKNorth. We very much look forward to hearing from you at #UC19Ottawa.