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New remote sensing research centre to be built in Inuvik

The Inuvik Satellite Station Facility. A ground station is to be built in Yellowknife. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

The federal government is planning a new northern innovation centre in Inuvik, specializing in remote sensing.

Remote sensing involves acquiring information about the Earth from a distance, usually via sensors on satellites or aircraft. An example would be satellite images like those on Google Earth.

The centre, which expands on an existing federal satellite facility outside the town, is intended to position Inuvik as a hub for remote sensing and enable northerners to take part in a growing industry.

Remote sensing’s applications include monitoring the impacts of climate change, informing emergency management and developing weather forecasts.

In the past decade, the number of satellites circling the Earth has grown exponentially.



How experts process remotely sensed data is also evolving, according to Frank Des Rosiers, assistant deputy minister of strategic policy and innovation for Natural Resources Canada.

“There’s a lot going on in this space, and Inuvik happens to be smack in the middle of it,” he said during a presentation at the Arctic Development Expo, held in Inuvik earlier this month.

Des Rosiers added there is a real opportunity for the North to be part of the industry and benefit from what is now a $20-billion business in Canada, sustaining roughly 20,000 jobs.

He said the idea to develop a northern innovation centre was first raised by former Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C McLeod and the late Jim Carr, who served as federal minister of natural resources until 2018.



“We are pleased to report that we’ve secured funding for the research centre,” Des Rosiers said, adding that $5 million has been set aside to kickstart the project.

Des Rosiers said the centre will have office and meeting space, as well as a warehouse, and could offer technical support, equipment and training. He raised the possibility of partnering with Aurora College to offer hands-on training at the centre to supplement in-class learning.

Inuvik is well-suited for such a centre. Being farther north is a plus in the business, because satellites pass over Inuvik more frequently than they do more southern locations, Des Rosiers said.

“We could have located such a centre in Saskatchewan or Ottawa, but we chose to place it here in large part because of that ecosystem, and that enthusiasm and support that we’ve witnessed over time,” he said.

Construction is about two years away. Until then, Des Rosiers and his colleagues will develop plans for the facility.

He said his team would love to partner with interested parties and find ways to maximize the centre’s benefit to the community, particularly youth.

Meanwhile, Des Rosiers said the existing Inuvik Satellite Station Facility – a satellite data collection station operated by the federal government – is nearing capacity.

With data volumes increasing and more satellite missions on the way, the team is working toward an expansion.

Des Rosiers said he and his colleagues expect four additional satellite dishes to become operational over the next 12 to 18 months.