Canadian Defence Review

March 14, 2016

CarteNav focuses its radar on ISR ergonomics
This sensor management software provider is helping global militaries and law enforcement agencies implement force-multiplication solutions. Its latest move: incorporating radar tracking data into its EO/IR/AIS software systems.

The impracticality of large scale Western ground deployments in Syria and Iraq, where opposing forces remain deadlocked, despite a growing international troop presence, has in recent weeks tangibly demonstrated how getting good information to military and civilian commanders is crucial to operational success.

One company that helps do that is CarteNav Solutions Inc., a land, sea and airborne sensor management software provider. According to Paul Evans the company’s CEO, the popularity of these systems is growing rapidly. “Defence, public safety, regulatory and commercial organizations increasingly regard remote sensing technology as a key element in their toolkits,” says Evans. “Optical and infrared cameras and radar systems are now regularly used in policing, resource protection, disaster response, asset inspection, search and rescue and border patrol.”

CarteNav’s recent innovations, such as the ability to display radar tracking data in its applications, are particularly good news for Canada’s Department of National Defence, which will be looking to incorporate upgraded sensor management technologies into a wide variety of upcoming projects. These include the Cormorant mid-life upgrade program, JUSTAS, several of its National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy vessels and a variety of other initiatives.

Growing international success
CarteNav has built a niche helping clients to fully leverage the capabilities inherent in ISR systems, by making them more intuitive to use, flexible to operate and connectable with a wider variety of sensors. Fueled by increasing demand for its innovative products, CarteNav has been growing rapidly.  Bookings in January 2016 alone amounted to more than the company has many times sold in an entire year – until recently. Not surprisingly staffing has also shot up – by nearly 50%, to more than 30 employees, - during the past 18 months.

That growth has been fueled by AIMS-ISR, the company’s low-cost, flexible, and easily configurable system, which enables operators to do their jobs faster and more effectively. The solution, which can be used on a variety of platforms, is powered by software that takes track data information from sensors and integrates it into a visual display that gives military and civilian operators a combined picture of the environments that they will be operating in.

CarteNav tools also provide mission management, image and video acquisition capability and a moving map that provides users with a local operating picture.  “The system maximizes platform and sensor investments,” says Evans. “By leveraging data effectively we can generate timely and valuable intelligence while reducing mission time and increasing operational effectiveness.”

According to Stephen Ayre, a CarteNav spokesperson, a crew-member on one of Canada’s CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft once told the company that its software enabled the team to increase its search area from 17,000nm2 in nine hours, to 30,000 nm2 in just eight.

An Eastern Canadian success story
One of the most surprising elements in CarteNav’s leadership role in this innovative high-technology industry, has been the company’s origins in Atlantic Canada, a region in which demand for mission systems and sensor data display products is modest to say the least. “We knew from the get-go that if we wanted to compete we would have to think big,” says Evans. “Canada accounts for only 15 percent of our total sales. All the rest are overseas.”

Evans, a consulting and systems integration sector veteran, with extensive software development and business expertise, isn’t kidding. CarteNav’s global footprint speaks for itself. Its systems are installed in 27 countries in six continents. More than 300 software licenses have been deployed on dozens of different platform types. Initial clients were in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. However over the years CarteNav built on that base, by partnering with North American integrators and primes such as L-3 Wescam, and expanding to southeast Asia, where operations continue to grow. More recently, in the last five years, the company broadened its focus on Europe, South America and Central Asia.  

A core strength of this Halifax-based company, which was founded at the turn of the millennium, as a research and development contractor, has been its ability to attract, develop and keep top talent. Initial shareholders included Rick MacDonald (its chief technology officer), Michael Lechman (its chief financial officer) and John Garden (chief software architect), all of whom remain active in the company. Evans came on board in 2010 as chief operating officer, and in 2014 he took over the CEO spot.

AIMS-ISR: why ergonomics matters
CarteNav’s developers been innovating from the company’s earliest days. AIMS-ISR, CarteNav’s flagship product, has its roots in research work that the company was doing for the Australian government, that involved linking moving map technology with advanced electro-optics/infra-red turret controls, processing the data and displaying it on video panels.

Many of the company’s its initial mandates consisted of integrating COTS solutions into custom-designed systems that were based on client needs. This gradually led to a rethink about how sensor management systems could be best implemented. Existing models during CarteNav’s early years involved clients and upper tier providers assessing sensor capabilities and then figuring out the best way to get that information to the user.

However as CarteNav grew, its developers increasingly streamlined that process by first asking users what data they needed in order to optimally perform specified tasks, and how that data would ideally be displayed. Developers then built the required systems around the user, adding sensors and other capabilities, as needs changed. The shift, which made considerable sense from an ergonomics perspective, drew widespread plaudits.   

The resulting improvements were incorporated in AIMS-ISR which now comes with a simple, intuitive customizable user interface. The fact that the system can also used on multiple platforms, vastly reduces training costs, and increases user efficiency. Customers, including many in the growing contracted ISR solutions market, benefit from 24 hours a day, seven-day per week customer support. That means they get help when they need it. Another big advantage stems from the fact that CarteNav’s solutions are ITARs (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) free. This gives the provider additional flexibility both as to how it uses its products, and who it can sell/resell to.

Innovative situational awareness initiatives
Evans is a major believer in the crucial importance of providing armed forces, law enforcement, first responders and other users, with effective integration and control of sensor information. CarteNav thus devotes an outsized portion of its revenues to research and development. “Operators’ ability to do their jobs is dependent on the situational awareness they have of environment they are operating in,” says Evans. “An airplane, ship or armored personal vehicle, can be equipped with the most high-performing and up-to-date sensors, but if the information that the operator picks-up is not displayed quickly, ergonomically, or accurately, then it may well be useless, or worse – counterproductive.”

Key activities conducted by CarteNav clients include detection, localization, tracking, classification, and identification of targets of interest. This leads to a variety of outcomes which include intervention, evidence gathering, coordination, and information sharing. The mission system software they use is central to their ability to effectively employ the platform (aircraft, vehicle, or vessel) they are working from and the sensing, computing, and communication technologies they have access to.

Radar control capability opens new markets
During the past year the company has made considerable efforts to boost video analytics and imagery augmentation capabilities, which includes improved display of mission data such as street addresses, and geographical data, which are over-layed on full-motion video. “This provides intuitive integration of tactical data during operations,” says Evans. “It’s a radical improvement in how to present tactical data to sensor operators, tactical flight officers and other users.”

CarteNav has also worked to better mesh camera controls with the video display. This enables the operator to control an EO/IR turret intuitively with a mouse, trackpad, trackball, or touchscreen. AIMS-ISR has also been integrated with leading 3rd party Motion Target Indication software.

The company’s new radar control capability, which can be overlaid with AIS and other sensor data will also open up new opportunities. For example CarteNav has been increasing its presence in the law enforcement market in recent years. Late last year the company announced a big win, after it was selected by the UK National Police Air Service, to install its AIMS-ISR technology on fixed-wing surveillance aircraft. This win follows on earlier AIMS-ISR installations that CarteNav did on seven UK police helicopters.

Building a domestic footprint
Yet while CarteNav’s business focus will always remain on the international scene, Evans is also seeing signs that increasing opportunities could develop domestically. CarteNav has a number of sought-after attributes that make its value proposition particularly attractive here in Canada. The Department of National Defence, particularly the Royal Canadian Air Force, has been a crucial long-term supporter. The company’s mandates with the department include work in the Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System (INGRESS) and CP-140 programs and a variety of mandates conducted in conjunction with Defence Research and Development Canada.

Evans hopes that recent developments, such as an increased government focus on the industrial technical benefits and overall value propositions that Canadian providers bring to the table, will enable CarteNav to build on that base during the coming years. The shifting political environment also won’t hurt. “The new Liberal Government, which includes more than 40 Members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada could open new doors,” says Evans. “Regional players will almost certainly have more chances to get their voices heard in Ottawa.”

That said CarteNav is unlikely to forget where its bread is buttered. “We won’t forego international efforts,” says Evans. “We have 14 trade shows this year. There are a lot of opportunities out there right now and we have to strike while the iron is hot.”

Name: CarteNav Solutions Inc.
Applications: Land, sea and airborne ISR, SAR, border patrol
Markets: Defence, law enforcement
Global footprint: Deployed in 25+ countries
Employees: 30+
Facilities: Canada, US, UK
Contact: Stephen Ayre, marketing manager, 902-446-4988 (227)


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