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Canadian Fisheries launches new patrol aircraft fitted with Australian Optical Radar

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s ViDAR-equipped Dash 8 maritime patrol aircraft. ViDAR will augment the Dash 8’s onboard EO/IR sensor suite. Photo: via PAL Aerospace

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has unveiled a new fleet of four surveillance aircraft. They include two long-range De Havilland Canada Dash 8 maritime patrol aircraft which will be equipped with ViDAR, an Australian-developed Optical Radar system.

ViDAR, for Visual Detection And Ranging, is an imagery analysis system developed by Melbourne-based Sentient Vision Systems. ViDAR is the world’s first passive, persistent Optical Radar with a proven detection rate for human head-size objects in the water of 96%, even in Sea State 6. That makes it extremely useful for fisheries patrol missions; ViDAR will augment the Dash 8s’ suite of onboard sensors.

The aircraft are being acquired under a C$128 million contract with PAL Aerospace based in St Johns, Newfoundland. When operational, they will fly out of bases in St Johns, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Campbell River, British Columbia.

The ViDAR-equipped Dash-8 aircraft will allow Canadian fishery officers to expand their range of operations, providing them with essential tools to combat illegal fishing and enhance Canada’s maritime security.

This new fleet of aerial surveillance aircraft will also be a crucial tool for the enforcement of measures put in place by the Government of Canada to protect endangered whales. This includes monitoring the Gulf of St. Lawrence for compliance to fisheries management measures for North Atlantic right whales, as well as monitoring critical habitat areas for Southern Resident killer whales.

The contract includes two King Air 200 and two Dash-8-100 maritime patrol aircraft, and three bases of operation: St. John’s, NL; Halifax, NS; and Campbell River, BC.

The new base of operations in Campbell River, BC became operational in September 2020.

The King Air aircraft—one based in Halifax, NS and another based in St. John’s, NL—became operational in September 2020.

Fishery officers flew over 700 hours in 2020 patrolling the Gulf of St. Lawrence to enforce fishery management measures designed to protect North Atlantic right whales.

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