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Ottawa awards Vancouver’s MDA $3.8m in defence contracts

Vancouver-based satellite imaging company UrtheCast among the other contract recipients
RCM satellites over Earth | submitted

The federal government is turning to the West Coast to fulfill defence contracts totalling $3.8 million.

Contracts under the joint-venture Defence Innovation Research Program (DIRP) for four projects spearheaded by Vancouver-founded MDA were officially announced December 14.

MDA, which might be best known as the maker of the robotic Canadarm used for NASA Space Shuttle missions, began working on the projects over the summer and expects to continue work over the next two years.

“This is a great sign when the Government of Canada is consciously looking at teaming with companies,” Chris Pogue, president of MDA Government, told Business in Vancouver.

“The Government of Canada is investing, MDA is investing, the other companies that will receive awards are investing — that’s a powerful combination.”

Joint ventures among companies participating in DIRP will see costs split 50-50 between government and private enterprise.

Among the other companies awarded contracts under DIRP is Vancouver-based UrtheCast Corp. (TSX:UR).

The satellite imaging company received a federal contribution of $1 million towards a $2-million contract and a $500,000 contribution towards a second, $1-million contract.

MDA, meanwhile, received the following contracts:

·      Application of Big Data analytics techniques to extracting GEOINT from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery: examining how meaningful geospatial data information can be extracted from SAR imagery

·      Augmenting Canada’s maritime surveillance capability with complementary electro-optic/infrared information products: using optical satellite data in strategic maritime and coastal surveillance

·      Persistent multi-sensor land surveillance and change monitoring: identifying and monitoring changes over large areas of land

·      Complementary Electro-Optical Infrared payload to RADARSAT Constellation Mission: using advanced technology for better surveillance of land and sea

“A lot of these programs that we’re putting forward are really starting to leverage into the AI and the Deep Learning domains,” said Jennifer Busler, MDA’s director of research and development.

She said MDA is crafting an artificial engine capable of analyzing and extracting information from a variety of satellite imagery.

“We’re really looking into how that ties in to maritime surveillance, how do we increase our ability to characterize vessels as they approach our Canadian shore, how do we understand our coastal protections,” Busler said.

The bulk of the work will be done at MDA’s Richmond facility, while Busler added that the company has been recruiting additional experts locally to work on the contracts.

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