Canada’s 2023 Defence Budget Underscores the Importance of Drones
The Government of Canada unveiled the 2023 federal budget on March 28. The team at Samuel Associates is studying its implications, including for defence. This article looks at the expanding role of drones and how this technology intersects with the following six priorities listed in this year’s defence portion of the budget.
1. Drones have various applications for the Canadian military. These include engaging targets and monitoring the battlespace. This makes drones an asset as well as a danger. The latter concern has galvanized efforts to devise effective defences. Accordingly, the defence budget pledges to allocate “to anti-drone capabilities” some of the $1.4 billion for “new critical weapons systems needed to protect the Canadian Armed Forces in case of high intensity conflict.”
2. Developing next-generation drones, and especially defending against them, will draw on and require the sort of “out-of-the-box thinking” embodied in NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA). The additional $30.1 million—disbursed from now until 2027—advanced in the defence budget represents the Canadian contribution to an alliance-wide initiative that will certainly continue to invest in “anti-drone capabilities.” Such assets have already attracted interest from the alliance—NATO’s Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) Technical Interoperability Exercise 2022 (TIE22), for example, involved emerging and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) that DIANA emphasizes—and Canada’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS), including the reported “Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems (CUAS) Sandbox” showcases in 2019 and 2022.
3. Drones have the potential to support the federal government and NATO’s initiatives on climate change. The defence budget has earmarked over $40 million for the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence (COE) taking root in Montreal. The COE, the budget notes, “will bring together NATO allies to mitigate the impact of climate change on military activities and analyze new climate change-driven security challenges, such as the implications for Canada’s Arctic.” Drones can contribute to that mission by, for instance, providing surveillance coverage in the Canadian Arctic and tracking pollution there.
4. Drones could serve another function in the Canadian Arctic. They could not only help to supply “products and services” to Arctic residents, but also potentially provision Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed in the region. (Some have urged the American military to consider “polar drones” for this purpose, among others.)Enhancing Canada’s logistical presence in the North aligns with the general goal—stated in the defence budget—“to protect Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.”
5. Drones will likely become a larger consideration in Ottawa’s continued efforts to shore up Ukraine, which has received over $1 billion “in military aid and equipment donations.” Drones have already emerged as an important dimension of that conflict and seem on track to remain so. Reportedly, the Canadian government is in talks to provide Ukraine with approximately $150 million worth of drones produced in Canada.
6. Drones can further the cause of tracking and ameliorating “the global food security crisis,” which has a holdover budgetary pledge of $545 million. Organizations like the United Nations World Food Programme have recognized the benefits of drones for, among other tasks, surveying crops. Similarly, through various mechanisms, including amassing actionable data points, drones have become a useful tool for expanding agricultural productivity.
The wide range of applications that the 2023 defence budget highlights—directly and indirectly—shows the versatility of drones and their increasing value, including monetary, for Canada and the world. According to one source, in 2028, the international drone market will stand at US $72 billion.
With a breadth of expertise on defence issues and a successful track record with drone firms, Samuel Associates can help you make sense of the emerging opportunities for drones in the Canadian market. Contact us to learn how.
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