The world is entering a new space age - a turning point in human history where rapidly decreasing costs, new technologies, geopolitical ambitions, and unprecedented commercial opportunities are driving a bold era of space development.
This has led to a convergence of possibilities in space commerce and accelerated civil-to-defence pathways. Capitalizing on this opportunity, Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB) will engage over 400 researchers in joint academia-industrial partnerships to deliver disruptive solutions and train the next-generation skilled workforce. We will establish Alberta as a global hub for innovation in space and defence technologies central to the future global economy.
This project is funded by the Government of Alberta Major Innovation Fund
Why Space-Defence Technologies Alberta?
From the wonders of space travel to the promise of global connectivity, modern life is increasingly linked to a global space industry growing at double digits annually and projected to pass $1T by 2030. The defence landscape is similarly transforming, as the strategic character of space becomes recognized as an operational domain and competitive advantage is pursued through the exploitation of civilian-military synergies.
Dual-use technologies such as advanced materials, sensing systems, and robotics, among others, are feeding new innovation pathways, and the potential for economic and technological benefits at this space-civil-defence nexus is tremendous.
Within the Canadian space tech community - which ranks amongst the top-three worldwide - Alberta leads some of the fastest growing space-for-earth sectors, asserts the most space-active post-secondary community in the country, and is poised for differential advantage.
Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB) is a pan-Alberta research ecosystem that will develop and deliver the next-generation technologies, train the next-generation workforce, and build future Alberta leaders for this transformational opportunity.
SDTech AB will leverage world-leading research areas in Campus Alberta with track records of disruptive technology development, industrial partnerships, spin-offs, training of highly qualified personnel, significant revenue generation, and impact on national and international policies.
This program establishes an innovation framework that aligns post-secondary expertise with stakeholder needs and will accelerate R&D projects towards tangible outcomes for Alberta’s societal and economic benefit. The R&D framework includes four research themes across three pillars in space and defence:
This theme aims to identify and support the commercialization of emerging technological areas and solutions that couple to Alberta’s post-secondary institution strengths and industry/government needs in the space and defence market sectors.
Key challenges for emerging technologies are the pace of development, the highly specialized (and end-user-driven) nature of solutions, and the global competitiveness of sectors leveraging leading-edge research and technologies. SDTech AB draws on existing areas of innovation, will identify and support cross-sectoral opportunities, and create high-value return on government investment.
This includes target areas of miniaturized, low-cost, low-power solutions for air-, space-, and ground-based applications, development of dual-use (civilian and defence) technologies, AI frameworks to improve sensor hardware performance, orbital and sub-orbital platforms (CubeSats, supersonic fixed-wing aircraft, sounding rockets, highly maneuverable VTOL aircraft, etc.) and associated propulsion systems.
Sensing Our Environment aims to advance how we acquire and synthesize high-value information across the space-defence landscape. It builds on the inter-connected, and often common mechanisms by which technology samples, records, and interacts with our environment. Sensors are now ubiquitous in our daily lives, driving expanding markets for new information to inform decisions and leverage new observational sensor platforms (space-, air-, ground-based, on-person, etc.).
This theme includes the development of remote sensing capacity via imaging technologies (hyperspectral satellite-based imaging, sub-orbital surveillance imaging, space environment specification, etc.), enhancing integrity and information content of multi-platform sensing (e.g., precise positioning, AI-driven sensor fusion), new technologies for direct sampling (e.g., soldier wearable sensors), and multi-sensor/model informed information synthesis.
This theme leverages the advanced sensor platforms, sensors and readily accessible data that is driving an ‘innovation race’ across the space and defence landscape. Governments and industries are vying to harness the efficiencies and advantages of data-informed decisions and embed situational awareness into core operational systems. Whether enhancing collision avoidance for satellites, evasive algorithms for sub-orbital defensive aircraft, or new techniques to utilize interconnected geospatial information, the goal is real-time situational awareness to facilitate smarter decision-making and industry competitiveness.
Situational Awareness aims to build on Alberta’s advantage in sensor technologies and multi-layered adaptive analysis to generate made-in-Alberta solutions that support the protection of Canada’s assets and enhanced industry efficiency through better decisions, founded on better information. This includes edge-AI computational frameworks deployed onboard devices, design of novel architectures for selection/fusion of sensors, development of capacity to create and understand common operational pictures, robustness and integrity of information and enhance decision-making.
This theme builds on situational awareness to better link assets to surveillance and reconnaissance, enhance natural and manufactured threat detection and support threat replication and response scenario planning/execution.
SDTech AB leverages Alberta post-secondary expertise in space-based technologies, aerospace systems, and joint-domain intelligence to enhance the technology readiness of leading-edge solutions aligned with Alberta industry and build new capacity in emerging areas of strategic importance.
This includes the development of technologies for AI-enabled enhanced asset (e.g., sensor) deployment/positioning, target tracing solutions, evasion algorithms, and joint-domain coordination of sensing – using space assets and advanced UAVs in hazardous environments to detect threats to soldier safety. It also leverages research into the integrity of (and threats to) space-based systems and space-based technologies such as positioning and communications.