The Northern Drone Program

Sovereignty – Industry – Jobs

A proposal for reinforcing Canadian Sovereignty in the high Arctic that is cost effective, augments Search & Rescue, and creates full time local employment as part of a self sustaining industry which has national and international marketing potential.

Northern Drone Progran as PDF

Author's Note

This paper is the result of many long walks with my dog over several years. She never said it was a totally crazy idea so I thought why not actually commit it to paper and release it into the wild. It is a bit disjointed and may ramble a bit but in publishing it what harm could it do?

Draft – Northern Drone Program – Feb 2014 – Robert G. McCue -

Table of Contents

The Canadian Arctic
What is Required In a UAV
Creating the Made in Canada AV Solution
Creating a New Industry
Initial and Local Sales
Export Sales
UAV Bases, Deployment Phases
Time Scales
UAV Designation
Appendix 1 - UAV Requirements:
Appendix 2 – The Proposed UAV Bases
Appendix 3 – Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement
Appendix 4 – UAV Command and Control
Appendix 5 – De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito

The Canadian Arctic

The Canadian Arctic is a very big place. It has a larger surface area than the continent of Europe with a population of only about one hundred and thirty thousand (130,000) people. About as many people as live in each of the moderate sized cities of Barrie, Abbotsford or Trois-Rivieres. And this population itself is primary divided between the three territorial capitals of Iqaluit, Whitehorse and Yellowknife all of which are located in the southern areas of the Arctic leaving the central and norther parts of the Arctic practically devoid of population.

Add to this the area of the Canadian Economic Zone and the fact that Canada is claiming economic rights to a large portion of the continental shelf under the Arctic Ocean and you end up with a huge area of the Arctic that falls under Canadian sovereignty.

Canadian Arctic Territories vs. Europe

Now in recent years as result of global climate change mult year ice is decreasing resulting in the opening up the circumpolar trade routes and access to the Arctic ocean sea bed the resultant problem is even grater. This opening up of the Arctic Ocean has lead to the northern countries, including Canada, staking claims to areas of the sea floor. All of which results in increased traffic in the area of the Arctic Ocean and the and of specific concern to Canadian the passages through the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

Minimum Extent Sea Ice Summer 2011 (NASA)

This means that the government of Canada must find an inexpensive and cost effective method of providing a continuous presence over the entirety of the Canadian Arctic territories reinforcing its sovereignty in its territorial waters and economic area of control. Especially when it comes to enforcement of Canadian sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago specifically the North West Passage.

Northern and Southern Passages

Aerial surveillance patrols are the ideal way to do this. However, Canada's current capability for doing this is severely limited due to equipment and personnel availability costs. In addition, being as we are dealing with the hostile Arctic environment putting air crews at risk on a regular basis is not really an effective use of highly trained manpower and expensive aircraft. There is also the additional problem that these aircraft are actually based quite far from the required operational areas.

So what is need is a method of doing regular aerial surveillance over the Canadian Arctic without putting aircrew and expensive aircraft at risk. Additionally the assets used should actually be located in the territories in order to give a 'boots on the ground ' element of sovereignty enforcement and be able to preform other rolls besides just sovereignty patrols in order to increase there usefulness in the Arctic environment..

This all leads us to the obvious solution of using Unnamed Aerial Vehicles, UAVs or as they are more commonly know as these days drones stationed at the existing or refurbished abandoned airfields that currently exist in the northern territories.

What is Required In a UAV

In looking at the requirements for a UAV to function in the Arctic it is best not to restrict the requirements to just patrolling, flying around with a TV camera, but is should also include capabilities that will enable it to fulfill other roles important to the Arctic environment. Two of the ones that come to mind immediately are Search & Rescue and general resupply of research or military operations.

Now to start with it has to be able to function in the severe Arctic conditions and not just on the 'nice' days. Which means that it must be robust / heavy enough to handle winds and inclement weather. It must also have a range capable to get out to the farthest edge of the Canadian undersea land claims in order to adequately preform sovereignty patrols.. So that means it must have a minimum range of three thousand kilometers, fifteen hundred there and back.

It should also be twin engined so if one goes you can still get it to an airfield either one currently in use or abandoned.

In regards to Search & Rescue being a drone it cannot carry SAR personnel but it is possible that in addition to a strictly search function it can carry emergency supplies that can be airdropped to people on the ground. This ability to airdrop will also be of benefit in resupplying research teams in the field and military personnel on the ground. Canadian Rangers etc.

And of course if it is capable of carrying cargo this it could also be used for small cargo transfers. It is suggested that the carrying capacity be about five hundred kilo grams in a space that could carry 3 standard oil drums end to end.

Now as to command and control of the UAVs satellite communications is too restrictive in the arctic and it does not cover the entire area. So a method of radio communications will have to be developed that can function over large distances or using a concept of mesh network of UAVs when doing long distance patrols that require continuous real time control. For other non-real time flights an operator could take the UAV off at on airfield then set it on automatic till it reaches the target field where it 'phones' a second operator who then lands it.

The major problem with the concept of using UAVs in the arctic is that there are currently no UAVs in production or in development that can requirements discussed above. So, as is often the case we need to create a made in Canada solution to this problem.

Creating the Made in Canada UAV Solution

The two main requirements for the UAV design will be the ability to be used for both sovereignty surveillance and search and rescue. This will require the UAVs to have long range, the ability to air drop survival packages and most importantly to operate from what are essentially rough surface northern airstrips in less than ideal flying conditions.

As previously stated the type of UAV's required for this program are not currently built by any of the worlds aircraft companies that build UAVs. This means that they either have to be contracted out to build one that matches these requirements or that a company has to be create to build them.

The main problem with contracting out is that it is a very expensive option and will greatly extend the over all length of the start up phase of the program. Therefore to ensure minimum start up times and maximum economic benefits to the northern Canadian the UAVs should be designed and build in Canada itself. Preferably in the norther territories themselves.

Now in order to speed the design phase it is recommended that an existing aircraft be used as a starting point for the UAV design. The UAV design under consideration for this project is a scaled down version of the D.H. Mosquito which is actually an aircraft that was previously previously built in Canada. These are wooden aircraft that do not require complex manufacturing infrastructure and the documents covering the construction methodologies are still readily available.

As mentioned , the actual construction of the UAVs can be done in the territories themselves taking advantage of the extensive wood working talent base residing there. For example the wings could be built in Whitehorse, the bodies in Yellowknife with the final assembly in Iqaluit. This will bring much needed employment and investment into these communities.

In addition there is a company in Winnipeg that specializes in UAV control systems. So that even the electronics can be made in Canada . Having the electronics made in Canada has the added advantage of removing the restrictions placed on technology transfer by the US government thus opening up a large export market for both the UAVs and the controlling technology.

Creating a New Industry

To start with the UAV must be made of course be made of wood so as to enable major construction to be done in the northern territories using the existing skill sets of the local people and with minimal manufacturing infrastructure outlay. Or equal importance is that the jobs and the financial benefits of this new industry must stay in the norther territories. Therefore it is recommended that Crown Corporation be created that will be jointly owed by the three territorial governments; Yukon, The Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, and the Government f Canada. In this way there is no way the company can be relocated in order to maximize profits.

The head / sales office of the new corporation should be in a city close enough to the central Canada, that's were the business and embassies are, so that it is just a short day or two trip but still is removed from the major air corridors. This will permit valid demonstrations of the UAV's capabilities without interfering with other commercial air traffic. This reports suggests that the ideal location would be in Sudbury, Ontario as they already also have a well established light aviation industry/flight school there.

The production of the UAVs themselves should be divided between the three territories. This will be the same sort of arrangement that Airbus uses in the building of its aircraft. In this case the three centers would be located int Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. The major components, wings and body, would be each int Yellowknife and Whitehorse, and with final assembly and maintenance facilities located in Iqaluit.

Due to the nature of the manufacturing processes involved no specialized infrastructure will be required. The UAV's can be built in large wood working shops as was the case in the Second World War but with some computerized cutting tools to speed up the work.

Now as the program progresses it will bee seen that the Northwest Territories and Nunavut will garner the majority of the operational jobs and resulting economic benefits so it is recommended that the primary training center be placed in Old Crow, Yukon to offset this imbalance. This site also has the advantage of being is a remote area off the air routes ans surrounded by land instead of water so recovery of UAV's from inevitable accidental landings is easier.


The Northern Drone Program creates two sets of jobs, short term construction and longer term production & support ones. The construction jobs are those that will be created as a result of the creation or modify and repair existing facilities to create the UAV bases and production and training centers. The longer tern production and support jobs will be with the Crown Corporation itself and will be related to the production and ongoing maintenance and operation of the UAVs.. The construction jobs are of course short term but will be able to employ local labour.

In regards to the Crown Corporation there will be two classes of jobs. Those involved with the production of the UAVs and those related to the maintenance and operation of them. In regards to jobs production as with all programs of this type, a single customer with a single major order, the job numbers will be bell curved. However it is anticipated that the trailing edge of the curve will be extended if not displaced altogether if additional customers are found for both the initial UAV design and for new designs in the future.

In addition in order to stretch the employment opportunities past the production phase the majority of workers at the various UAV bases and the pilots themselves should be local contractors working under the direction of skeleton CF/CCG staff. Ideally the civilian workers and UAV pilots should be contracted out directly from the crown corporation. This ensures that the majority of all monies remain in the northern communities.


Costs have not really been considered in the scope of this document however back of the envelope calculations have been arrived at.

It is estimated that about $20 million initial investment will be required in order to this project. These finds will come from the three participating territorial governments and the federal government. With the federal government picking up the lions share split between Industry Canada, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

As to the pricing of the UAVs, based on the current costs for UAVs and the low tech construction techniques to be used in this program it is assumed that the price of these UAVs could come in between $250,000 and $500,000 Canadian. So the initial purchase order of 40 UAVs required for this project would be between $10 million and $20 million dollars with the customer being National Defense and or the Canadian Coast Guard.

In addition it is estimated that $45 million will be required to build hangers and associated infrastructure at each UAV base, $5 million per base. These costs will be borne by the customer who will retain ownership of them.

This brings the total cost of the program to about $80 million with the end result being a self sustaining industry. An industry with via local and international sale will be able to pay dividends to the investing governments.

In comparison the Polar class ice breaker being planed for the arctic will cost upwards of $750 million to design and build. Additionally the Arctic Patrol Ship Project, about 7 vessels, will cost about minimum of $3.1 billion just to design a build. Neither of these are even at the design stage and their operational dates are still years in the future. And as for the CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft $70 million per plane (2012 dollars) ans they are coming up for replacement.

Initial and Local Sales

Initial sales of these UAVs will be made to the federal government to either the Department of National Defense or the Canadian Coast Guard. Once they have shown their versatility other federal, territorial and provincial government will be approached including the private sector. Of specific interest will be those government departments dealing with fisheries patrol and search & rescue on the east coast, the Grand Banks.

Export Sales

These UAVs are essentially a low tech versatile yet inexpensive aircraft. Their design will be specifically geared towards being able to be maintained in the harsh environment of remote areas. As a result they will be ideal for use in developing countries that can see the need for a robust autonomous air vehicle that has a small transport capacity. For things like mail drops on a regular route, wildlife resource monitoring not to mention SAR and their own sovereignty/security patrols.

Possible customers include Australia, the large North African countries and the island nations within the Caribbean and the southwest Pacific.

UAV Bases, Deployment Phases

The land mass of the Canadian Arctic is essentially a triangle. At the apex of triangle you have Canadian Forces Station Alert at the northern end of Ellesmere Island and a line that runs along the top of the North American continent, the Canadian mainland. With the North West passage running basically though the middle of that triangle.

Phase 1

In the first phase of the program UAVs would be stationed at Alert, Iqaluit, and Sach's Harbour. Which are the three corners of the the arctic triangle. This gives very good coverage of the area of the Arctic Ocean area currently claimed by Canada under the Law of the Sea as well as the eastern and western approaches to the North West Passage. Sach's Harbour also provides cover for the lower western portions of the North West Passage. All three of these locations already have working airstrips but would require the construction of UAV hangers and possibly quarters for the aircrew. Sach's Harbour is also ideal places to 'work' the bugs out of the systems since there is little to no air travel in the immediate area at the altitudes these craft function.

Phase 1 UAV Bases

Phase 2

The second phase would be stationing UAV groups at Resolute Bay, Cambridge Bay, Repulse Bay and Pond Inlet. These bases would give effective coverage to the the southern route of the North West passage. In addition units at Cambridge Bay and Repulse Bay are available for forest fire spotting in the norther part of mainland Canada. Repulse Bay can also be used to patrol the southern entrance to the North West Passage and the entrance to Hudson bay. The UAV group at Pond Inlet in addition to patrolling the norther entrance to the North West Passage would also be able to patrol down the Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait separate Baffin island and Greenland. Pond Inlet is also the halfway point between Alert and Iqaluit.

Phase 2 UAV Bases

Phase 3

The third phase would require the reactivation of the weather station at Mould Bay which was decommissioned in the 1990s. This will require the repairing of the existing airstrip and the construction of UAV hangers and aircrew quarters. This base is positioned in such a way that it is useful for both patrolling the western approaches and the northern route of the North West Passage. In addition it is well positioned to patrol the Canada Arctic Ocean economic zone.

It is also suggested that once the traffic increases in the Northwest Passage that the Mould Bay site be expanded to a full search and rescue base including medical and survivor services that can be activated and staffed as required.

Phase 3 UAV Bases

Time Scales

Since there are no major technological or logistical hurdles to overcome in relation to this program, implementation of this plan could easily be done within a time frame of months as opposed to the years (decades) required by the current proposed ship building program.


As part of the sovereignty enforcement role that these UAVs will play it will have to be demonstrable that they can be armed. The current size of the UAVs will permit them to be equipped with nose either mounted 20 mm cannon or .50 cal. machine guns and be able to carry a Mk 46 or similar torpedo in their cargo / bomb bay. It is understood that in the normal course of operation these UAVs will never be armed.

However, for propaganda purposes it must be shown that the capability does exist.

UAV Designation

Being as it is a smaller version of the Mosquito the name Black Fly came to mind....

Appendix 1 - UAV Requirements:

It must be made of wood enabling major construction to be done in the territories with minimal manufacturing infrastructure outlay.

One of the most successful wooden aircraft built in twentieth century was the D.H. Mosquito. These were a workhouse aircraft of the Canadian and Allied air forces during the second world war. They were easily build with several thousand built right here in Canada. It is a scaled down version of this aircraft that is envisioned as the UAV to be build for the ADP. Because the Mosquito is a proven design with a documented production methodology it lends itself perfectly to being scaled down for use by this program.

It will have to be able to function in the harsh conditions of the Arctic day or night and in less than deal weather conditions.

It will have to be able to operate from non surfaced runways.

It will have to be build using off the shelf parts. If you cant get it off the shelf it cannot be used in the vehicle.

It will require a cargo bay of 10 foot by 2.5 foot by 2.5 foot (3 standard oil drums, 2 20 man rafts, survival gear, 1 Mk 46 torpedo, etc ) with opening doors on the bottom for parachute drops and a side opening door for ground access. Max payload of 500 kg,

It will require a min speed 400 kph so that in SAR situation it can get to the people as fast as possible and drop survival packs as required . In the Arctic time is of the essence.

It will require a operation range of 1500km range, 3000km point to point either with internal fuel or with that plus axillary fuel tanks acting as part of the 500 kg cargo.

It will have to be able to function independent of real time satellite communications using both autonomous programmed missions and real time mesh radio network control sometimes all modes with in the same mission.

No components that are covered but the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations ( ITAR ) may be used.

Appendix 2 – The Proposed UAV Bases

Appendix 3 – Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement

The Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement (formally the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic) is an international treaty concluded among the member states of the Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States — on 12 May 2011 in Nuuk Greenland.

The treaty coordinates international search and rescue (SAR) coverage and response in the Arctic, and establishes the area of SAR responsibility of each state party. In view of the conflicting territorial claims in the Arctic, the treaty provides that "the delimitation of search and rescue regions is not related to and shall not prejudice the delimitation of any boundary between States or their sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction."

Indicated are the extent of the maximum search areas for the UAVs as per the Phase 1 dispositions. The Canadian area of responsibility easily falls into the operational range of the proposed UAVs.

Appendix 4 – UAV Command and Control

The UAVs will be capable of being controlled in three types of modes. They can be used independently or in concert.

Satellite Link

Satellite control of UAVs in the Arctic is problematic. This is due to the nature of geosynchronous communications satellites. However, low bandwidth coverage is available over most of the central and southern areas of the arctic which is the area that contains both the northern and southern routes of the Northwest passage.

Current Satellite Footprint

Currently the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), in partnership with Environment Canada (EC), the Department of National Defense (DND) and supported by other Government Departments, completed in September 2008 the Concept Development and Requirements Identification study (Phase 0) for the PCW project. The outcomes of this study proved that a system of two satellites operating in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) could provide continuous 24/7 broadband communications services and monitor arctic weather and climate change at the required temporal and spatial resolution, throughout all of the Arctic.

Mesh Network

For areas outside of satellite coverage several UAV operating in concert can be used to create a mesh network. If an element of the network is within the footprint of a communications satellite then that link can be incorporated into the mesh. It should be noted that other aircraft, ships or land stations can function as elements of the mesh network.


Autonomous operations can be used for patrols or supply runs. An operator performs the take off at on point and then engages a flight plan. The UAV flies a pre-programmed course and then when it returns to its starting point it contacts the operator who then lands the UAV.

Autonomous operations for point to point flight can also be used. An operator performs the take off at on point and then engages a flight plan. When the UAV reaches its destination it contacts the operator there who then lands the UAV.

Or you have an operator launch the UAV that then flies autonomously out to say a ship who has an operator that then controls the UAV for the duration of the mission and then when finished it returns to its original operator for landing.

Appendix 5 – De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito

The Mosquito was one of the most remarkable planes of the Second World War. The Mosquito – in full the De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito – was a twin-engine, two-seat bomber that was modified to serve as a fighter which could operate during the day or at night or as a photo reconnaissance plane. In whatever capacity, the Mosquito proved to be immensely successful – for a ‘wooden’ plane.

The idea for the Mosquito was forwarded to the government as early as 1938. The De Havilland design team based the Mosquito on their plane, the DH-88 Comet, which had won the 1934 London to Melbourne air race. De Havilland’s idea was simple – to power the plane with two Rolls Royce Merlin engines so that its sole defence, other than the skill of the pilot, was sheer speed to keep it out of harms way. The structure of the Mosquito was to be entirely made out of wood with a stressed skin of thin laminated plywood over a balsa core. The first Mosquito flew in November 1940, and it went into production soon after.

With its multiple role capacity, the Mosquito proved a very valuable plane for the RAF. Production of the plane continued until 1947 and in all 7,781 of them were made. The Mosquito continued serving the RAF as a reconnaissance plane until 1955.