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June 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

A recent NRC test involving a laptop, a bomb and a Boeing 727 gave several Canadian companies the chance to strut their stuff. The companies design technologies to help manage disasters and high-risk security situations – everything from bomb-sniffing robots to a "disaster in a suitcase" kit that fits in the trunk of a car and can be set up within minutes to provide voice, video and data communication via satellite.

The companies participated in a first-ever Canadian event – the deliberate detonation of a bomb inside a pressurized aircraft. On Tuesday May 8th, with safety precautions in place, an explosive was set off in the rear cargo hold of a decommissioned 727 at NRC's Uplands campus in Ottawa. The explosive was hidden in a laptop.

City of Ottawa and Ottawa airport fire crews were on hand during the test.
City of Ottawa and Ottawa airport fire crews were on hand during the test.

"We in industry have a whole range of expertise that can assist police departments and other first responders around the world, but they don't know we're here."

Bob Smith, Frontline Robotics

The event showcased multiple Canadian technologies designed to enhance situational awareness and response during an incident such as a bombing, terrorist attack or shooting. It included demonstration of technologies developed by Frontline Robotics (Ottawa), Smart Camera Technologies (Calgary), IEG (Montréal), Anvil Technologies (North York), Terrapoint (Ottawa), Tidex Systems (Israel), Nuctech (Ottawa) and LochIsle (Ottawa).

Canada has developed many technologies to fight crime and terrorism, but often these technologies are not well known. "We in industry have a whole range of expertise that can assist police departments and other first responders around the world, but they don't know we're here," says Bob Smith, Defence and Security Representative for Frontline Robotics.

The problem is that most of these technologies come out of small companies whose expertise is in R&D, not sales and marketing.

NRC's event gave the companies a rare opportunity to show their technologies to groups that are first on the scene during a disaster, such as the RCMP, Ottawa's fire and police services, and the Department of National Defence. Testing their technologies together allowed them to explore how their products could be integrated to further reduce the chance of an emergency situation and to arm responders with effective tools.

A security robot from Frontline Robotics performed a simulated
A security robot from Frontline Robotics performed a simulated "sniff" of luggage to check for explosives. Frontline's robots will be part of the security measures for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

"Everyone was using each other's technology to multiply their effect," says Ron Gould, the NRC Aerospace technical officer who organized this test. "It was tremendous."

The audience got a first-hand look at systems such as a helmet-mounted camera that relays live video from a disaster scene to a remote computer, where it can be shared instantly with specialists around the world.

"That was very interesting," says Special Constable Jean Vermette with the RCMP. "For example, if we found a device that we didn't recognize [at a disaster scene], we could talk to somebody at the bomb data centre in the UK, or at the FBI, and ask them, 'Do you see what we're seeing? Do you recognize that device?'"

During the day-long event, IEG from Montreal demonstrated a speed bump that scans the license plates of cars entering a secure area and checks them against a database of approved vehicles. Terrapoint quickly created a 3D scale model of the debris field using laser mapping technology.

"You can see the complete scene," says Vermette. "It gives you more detail than a normal digital picture, and it's a faster way to safely pass information out of the scene to the criminal investigator, who would look for suspects."

Several Canadian companies demonstrated their security technologies to an audience of emergency responders during NRC's event.
Several Canadian companies demonstrated their security technologies to an audience of emergency responders during NRC's event.

Frontline Robotics showcased a small R2D2-like robot equipped with sensors to scan for bombs in the cargo or passenger compartment of a plane. The robots will be used to enhance security at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Frontline is an incubator company in NRC's industrial partnership facility at the Ottawa airport. According to Smith, Canadian security companies face particular challenges in the marketplace.

"It's a bit harder for a small Canadian company to be successful in this business," says Smith. He adds that the NRC connection gives his company instant credibility. "That credibility allows you to talk to the highest people in the industry. It distinguishes you head and shoulders above the rest."

Smith says NRC's history of research in security technologies has gone a long way towards building Canada's security expertise. "NRC is integral to what's happening here, and Canada is at the forefront of a lot of this technology," says Smith. "It's been developed here, and we're proud of it."

With the test completed, NRC Aerospace will study the damaged plane to learn about the types of fractures caused by explosions as opposed to regular wear and tear – knowledge that could help in future accident investigations. "If we are ever asked to help determine whether an explosive device was involved in the loss of an aircraft, we'll now have something to refer to," says Gould.

The research fits in with NRC's larger focus on critical issues facing the aerospace sector, in areas including manufacturing, gas turbine engines, aerodynamics, flight research, and aircraft structures and materials.


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