The Royal Canadian Navy is operating in an increasingly complex environment, and is monitoring the potential of future innovations to keep its defense systems and strategies ahead of the curve so that potential threats do not become dangerous realities. One of the current innovations the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is testing are micro and mini drones.
Drones are a threat that has evolved over time. As they get smaller and harder to detect, and as they gain new capabilities like the ability to connect multiple drones and form swarms, they have the potential to pose increasingly dangerous risks to ships at sea.
The Royal Canadian Navy is keeping track of these new capabilities and testing the effectiveness of its systems against a number of drones of varying sizes and abilities.
The Snyper micro Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is the first drone being tested to provide the Navy with insight into the effectiveness of its tracking systems against smaller threats by conducting tracking and live-fire exercises.
Snyper is a compact, lightweight and cost-efficient drone that is designed to be expendable. «The Snyper is meant to be a target and it is something we would always want to use live fire with», said Chief Petty Officer, 2nd Class Gordon Dolbec, who has been testing the drone. «It only makes sense to use live ammunition».
Snyper is also providing the RCN an opportunity to further explore the needs and requirements of UAS operations in maritime environments. It is among the first of several UAS acquisitions that the RCN is currently managing.
Drones are categorized into different classifications, each with unique restrictions of operation. The Class 1 category is the least restrictive classification, and the category the Snyper belongs to. This provides the RCN with the flexibility to learn in a less restrictive environment, but does not mean its operation is without rules.
«Snyper is going to allow the RCN to develop the foundations for moving forward with unmanned aerial systems, training operators, developing all of our Standard Operation Procedures so that we can eventually reach the Royal Canadian Navy ISTAR Unmanned Aerial System program», said Lieutenant-Commander Greg Atkinson.
Snyper has introduced the RCN to the complexities surrounding training in addition to airworthiness. It is currently helping Navy personnel answer questions such as, «how do we train our operators?», «who is training our operators?», and «what knowledge can be transferred to the larger systems?»
The RCN will continue to develop its capability with Snyper and transfer lessons learned to fully support the Force Generation required for the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) program.
This is not where the capabilities of the Snyper end. Due to the simplicity of the airframe the RCN is able to request modifications to the platform to meet a variety of needs. An early modification to the airframe was to replace the stock camera with a high-resolution camera.
This new payload provides video and imagery capability that was once only feasible through use of a helicopter, at a fraction of the cost. Recently HMCS Charlottetown (FFH-339) used Snyper in support of missile exercise (MISSILEX) as an imaging camera that was flown from the flight deck. Snyper was more recently deployed in the Arctic on Operation Nanook (Op NANOOK) and took some stunning photos.