Calgary companies seeking to win multi-billion dollar Canadian military bid for drone procurement

Three Calgary-based companies are part of a larger team that has been selected as one of two qualified bidders for a Canadian aerospace military contract worth in excess of $1 billion

Article content

Three Calgary-based companies are part of a larger team that has been selected as one of two qualified bidders for a Canadian aerospace military contract worth in excess of $1 billion.

Canadian UAVs — a Calgary-based unmanned aerial vehicle service company — has been selected along with ATCO and Lockheed Martin CDL Systems to be part of Team Artemis, a Canadian group bidding for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft System project. The project is meant to supply the Canadian military with unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly called drones) for both domestic surveillance purposes as well as deployed missions.

Though the request for proposals is not expected to be released until later this year, the value of the contract is expected to be massive, with an estimated program price tag of between $1 billion and $5 billion over 25 years. Team Artemis — which is being led by Ontario-based defence and security company L3Harris Technologies — is one of only two groups to be selected as a qualified bidder, with the other being a group headed by U.S.-based military provider General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The contract is expected to be awarded in 2022-2023, with the first system delivery anticipated in 2024-2025. If Team Artemis is successful with its bid, the drones would likely be manufactured in Quebec, though all of the training and testing would take place in Alberta through Canadian UAVs, while the vehicle control and ground system software would be provided by the Calgary office of Lockheed Martin. ATCO would provide the full spectrum of logistics support for the program, either in the Canadian North or anywhere in the world.

Article content

“For us, it’s huge. We’d have to scale up quite substantially. We’d probably triple in size,” said Sean Greenwood, founder and president of Canadian UAVs. The company, founded in 2015, currently has 28 employees and provides unmanned aerial vehicle services and training to a range of industrial clients, particularly in the oilsands and pipeline sector.

Article content

“It’s going to be very hard to find the right people to work on this program, so we’re already starting to think about an organic, post-secondary training program that could be required,” Greenwood added.

Alberta has long been a hub for unmanned aerial vehicle technology, in large part because of its uses in the province’s major industries of oil and gas, agriculture and forestry. Many Alberta companies, military agencies and educational institutions are working in various forms of drone research and development, testing and manufacturing.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Alberta is also home to the Foremost Airspace for Unmanned Systems (located near the village of Foremost, southwest of Medicine Hat), which was established by the local village council together with the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems as a place for companies and researchers to test and pilot drones. It is one of only two Transport Canada-approved “beyond line of sight” test ranges for unmanned aerial systems.

In addition, Alberta is home to four of Canada’s major military bases, including CFB Suffield near Medicine Hat which has a research centre specializing in military engineering and autonomous systems, as well as testing areas for new technologies.

“If you look at our announcement today, three of our teammates come from Calgary,” said Marc LeBlanc, senior director of business development with L3Harris. “So that says a lot about what Calgary and Alberta has to offer in terms of aerospace and defence.”

The Alberta government has also identified aerospace and aviation as one of the emerging sectors that holds the most potential in terms of creating jobs and diversifying the province’s economy going forward.

“We have the industry expertise, we have numerous players here that are developing out expertise in drone and remote flying technology,” said Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer in an interview. “It’s just another one of these industries that has flown under the radar in Alberta, and it seems to be hitting its stride at this time.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Schweitzer said if Team Artemis is successful at winning the military contract, it would represent “stability and a building block” for the further development of the industry in this province.

“I think it would just continue to build on the momentum we already have in this space,” he said.

“Calgary’s aerospace sector often flies under the radar, but Calgary is actually an emerging centre for excellence and innovation in the global aerospace industry,” said Mary Moran, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development. “There is a lot of exciting and innovative aerospace work being done in Calgary, and it’s only going to continue to grow and have a major economic impact.”

astephenson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @AmandaMsteph

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View Source