Nova Scotia

Halifax tech company to train crews for Arctic offshore patrol ships

Halifax's Bluedrop Training and Simulation Inc. has won a $15-million contract from Irving Shipbuilding and Fleetway Inc. to train the future crews.

Bluedrop Training and Simulation awarded three-year contract from Irving Shipbuilding

Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding, tries a virtual reality simulator developed by Bluedrop Training and Simulation. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

A Halifax company is gearing up to train incoming crews of Canada's Arctic offshore patrol vessels using virtual reality technology. 

Bluedrop Training and Simulation Inc. won the $15-million, three-year contract from Irving Shipbuilding and Fleetway Inc. 

The technology company is developing computer software to run simulations that will train all new AOPS crew members in both general familiarization and specific roles. Shore support crews will also get the virtual reality training. 

"Today, having systems that are incredibly interactive is extremely important," said Jean-Claude Siew, the vice-president of training and simulation for Bluedrop.

"We will not have people just standing in a classroom and listening to someone. They need to get involved, they need to touch, they need to grab the iPhone."

Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding, said Irving has awarded contracts to 190 Canadian companies. In total, McCoy said the contracts are worth $1 billion, with $405 million heading to Nova Scotia companies. 

"The strategy creates industry certainty, and develops national industry standards and capacity," he said. 

Bluedrop's virtual reality technology includes visors that are worn over the eyes and hand-held controllers. One goal of the training is to allow the ships to be operated with fewer people than in the past. 

New technology jobs

Bluedrop has 25 employees working on the project. Eight of them were hired due to the contract, which will last for three years. However, Siew said he expects Bluedrop will continue working with the AOPS crews for longer than that. 

Jean-Claude Siew is the vice-president of training and simulation for Bluedrop. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

"A project like this will not finish after three years, because the ships are being built," he said.

"We do expect there will be an in-service support portion and so on, and that we'll be involved in that. So those jobs are not [just] being created, we believe they'll be maintained for a certain number of years. So that's incredible for a company our size."

'It's like something out of science fiction'

Jake Caspick, one of the eight recently hired employees, said "it's just been an amazing opportunity to get to tinker with this new technology." He compared it to "something out of science fiction."

Caspick compared his first experience in a virtual reality headset to the excitement of early experiences of recorded music or television. 

Jake Caspick works for Bluedrop Training and Simulation. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

He also said he enjoys more career stability, having just returned to the Maritimes from working in Calgary. 

"It's nice to finally find a place where I get to pursue something that I'm passionate about and have a career path ahead of me," he said. 

now