New technologies may aid in Canadian coastal defence

With the longest coastline in the world, Canada has a difficult challenge in patrolling and enforcing security measures.

Patrolling the longest coastline in the world presents Canada with a difficult security challenge.

On any day there can be more than 500 vessels off Canada's Atlantic coast alone. The Canadian Forces and the coast guard can't identify and track them all.

But earlier this month the Canadian navy carried out a sea trial that could lead to a potential solution.

It was a show of technology, some of it never used before. Fifteen different types of sensors tracked a staged drug drop from a container ship.

The drop, actually a beer keg, was picked up by a trawler, then handed off to smaller boats to take to shore.

All the while, the surveillance team was watching real-time video from a manned aircraft, and listening to audio from an underwater glider as well as recordings from stealth buoys sitting on the ocean floor.

The military says satellite, radar and infrared technologies working together could tighten up Canada's coastal surveillance and reduce personnel costs.

"We've actually got a system that can monitor that ... we'll be able to focus more on the things that we don't know, the unknowns," said Gary Geling of Defence Research and Development Canada.

And while observers like what they see, some warn there are many bugs still to be ironed out.

"For example, one of the things with the satellites ... is that they don't do passes over the areas that we would like to see them [pass over more] frequently ... so more satellites [means] more money," said Senator Colin Kenney, who is chairman of the Senate committee on national security and defence.