Scientists and soldiers test cutting-edge technologies in Montreal

During CUE 18, defence scientists and military personnel worked together to test over 50 technologies from five participating nations. PHOTO: CPLC JULIE TURCOTTE, 34e Groupe-brigade du Canada LQ2018-1018D

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During the first three weeks of September, Montreal served as host to over 150 scientists from five countries and nearly 100 members of 3 Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (3 R22eR) to test over 50 new technologies on the streets of the city’s downtown core, on the Belvedere at Mount Royal, at an out-of-commission grain silo in the Old Port, and around an armoury on Côte-des-neiges.

Known as the Contested Urban Environment experiment 2018, or CUE 18, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and partners from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand tried to answer the following question: what do we need to know about a city in order to operate effectively?

The objective of the experiment was to test new technologies in a dense and complex city, similar to the types of conditions in which future armed forces will have to operate.

Why pick the city of Montreal? Chosen because of its varied terrain – “urban canyons” of street corridors flanked by high rises and houses, the panoramic peak of Mount Royal overlooking city, and the gritty historic sites of the Old Port, Montreal set itself as an ideal location to run this year’s experiment.

The director of the experiment, Patrick Maupin, explained the relevance of testing these new technologies in an urban context, “The most interesting thing about CUE is that it brings together technologies that would otherwise only be tested in labs or in separate countries.”

On De la Montagne Street, those strolling down the street had a chance to see soldiers wearing or carrying some of the technologies such as laser range finders that determined the distance of objects, infrared goggles, and exoskeletons.

The summit of Mount Royal provided the ideal venue for scientists and deployed soldiers to test their long-range observation and sensing technologies and thermal night vision optics during the night.

However, it was at Silo No. 5, a former industrial complex and current heritage site, where the most impressive technologies were tested. The soldiers had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the use of optical sensing systems, vehicle barriers and perimeter security systems, while researchers used various unmanned aerial and ground-based vehicles to scan and analyse the area.

The final stage of the experiment took place around the home base of the Côte-des-neiges armoury, where the technologies came together to be tested in one final showdown.

Major Kim Bériault, commander of B Company, 3 R22eR, summarized how important it was for CAF members to participate in these experiments, saying, “What I like most is that soldiers are being asked for their feedback on the technologies such as the usability and challenges that come with deploying them in this type of urban setting.”

Although it is still too early to determine which technologies may be useful to the CAF in the future, most of the troops agreed that they were particularly impressed by a radar that made it possible to see through walls.

The Contested Urban Environment experiment is in its second year. The first experiment was held in Australia in November 2017, and the third one will be held in the United States in 2019. The final one slated for the UK is in the planning stages for 2020.

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