UCalgary recognized nationally for space and defence technologies expertise

Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence Natasha Kim views innovative solut
Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence Natasha Kim views innovative solutions at IDEaS Marketplace 2024. Hayoung Jeong, IDEaS program
The Department of National Defence’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) Marketplace is a premier by-invitation-only annual event where innovators who have received IDEaS program and NATO DIANA funding showcase their technology to stakeholders in government and industry. At IDEaS Marketplace 2024, held this past May in Ottawa, the University of Calgary had a significant presence showcasing their innovative solutions to different IDEaS challenges.

UCalgary had the largest organizational and post-secondary presence at the event with three projects represented out of the 40 innovator groups present. UCalgary exhibited different dual-use technologies that address security, provide assurance of information, protect critical infrastructure, and assist search-and-rescue operations.

"With a strong UCalgary presence at IDEaS Marketplace, our projects represented over $3 million in new funding and showcase the innovation happening in Alberta on a national stage," says Dr. Susan Skone, PhD, associate vice-president (research).

"We are generating opportunity, informing decision-makers, and demonstrating to stakeholders and industry that the space and defence sector is strong here, and that attracts new projects, talent and investment to our university and province."

Anti-spoofing for cybersecurity

Skone, a professor in the Department of Geomatics Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering (SSE) has developed a sophisticated anti-spoofing solution for global navigation satellite systems. Spoofing is when a navigation system is deceived by counterfeit received GPS signals, a problem more complex than jamming when a GPS signal is blocked.

Skone’s anti-spoofing technology can detect counterfeit signals from the ground or from space to raise an alarm to mitigate them, and operates independently in remote environments without requiring an encryption key or specialized antenna. This solution can be used widely to protect autonomous systems such as self-driving cars.

5G surveillance applications

Dr. Henry Leung, PhD , professor, Department of Electrical and Software Engineering, SSE, leads the IDEaS 5G-Enabled Trustworthy Common Operational Picture with Edge Server Data Engine (5G-TCOP) MicroNet. This diversified research network of five Canadian institutions develops innovations for remote-control guided vehicles, such as drones that combine 5G, artificial intelligence, and Edge analytic capabilities for surveillance and data collection.

The MicroNet works in collaboration with industry partners while also training graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in this rapidly developing technology area.

Robots for high-risk rescue operations

Dr. Alejandro Ramirez-Serrano, PhD , professor, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, SSE, exhibited his Calgary-based company, 4Front Robotics. He has developed maneuverable multi-legged robots as well as advanced aircraft systems to be used in high-risk search and rescue operations in complex or confined spaces that are too dangerous for people.

These robots can autonomously navigate intricate environments such as inside collapsed buildings by reconfiguring and planning their whole-body motions using artificial intelligence and advanced locomotion architectures.

"These advanced robotic tools will perform tasks 150 per cent faster than a human while empowering search and rescue personnel to save more lives without being exposed to the hazards of confined spaces when disaster strikes," says Ramirez-Serrano, director of the Robotics Robotarium Research Laboratory at UCalgary.

Skone, Leung and Ramirez-Serrano are all collaborators of Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB), which is creating a diverse, made-in-Alberta ecosystem of space and defence innovation. Skone co-leads the program with Dr. Emma Spanswick, PhD, assistant professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science, who also represented SDTech Alberta at IDEaS Marketplace.

Skone and Spanswick had attended IDEaS Marketplace the previous year with a solution for over-the-horizon radar for surveillance, a radar system that can look over the curvature of the earth. Connections at the event led to a new research partnership with industry that led to a successful grant from the Canadian Space Agency.

"IDEaS Marketplace has previously generated significant research projects with new partners and sponsors, and we look forward to new opportunities that will develop post the 2024 event," says Skone.

At the 2024 Marketplace, the IDEaS program invited innovators from its fourth round of competitive projects, Pop up city and Robot Round-up Contests, Innovation Networks’ 5G capabilities challenge, and Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems (CUAS) 2019 and 2022, and Corrosion Detection in Ships (CDIS) Sandboxes.