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Hunting drones with Operation Nanook
Yellowknife members participate in annual sovereignty exercise in Yukon and Nunavut

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Military personnel from Joint Task Force North have deployed to both Yukon and Nunavut to dismantle drones and respond to earthquakes.

The members are taking part in Canadian Forces annual sovereignty operation Operation Nanook, in which participants enact a variety of simulated disasters. Around 250 of the approximately 850 military members and civilians involved in the operation are in Rankin Inlet working through an Arctic security exercise to recover a malfunctioned Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which is essentially a drone.

According to Task Force Nunavut Commanding Officer Lt.-Cmdr. Terence Cross, "A UAV can contribute to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for any particular operation."

In this situation, the drone was keeping track of maritime traffic.

Reservists from the Yellowknife branch of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment will act as the opposition - but not in the traditional sense. The Loyal Eddies will play a small, non-military third-party opposition group trying to steal the drone. The sensitive information on the drone makes this scenario a risk to national security. Troops will be working to relocate the UAV and keep it from the reservist led force.

Two Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels will participate in the exercise, and around 100 soldiers will be out on the land.

"We are getting our troops on the ground as if it were an immediate notice deployment in response to a rabidly developing situation," said Cross.

Members of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Yellowknife are acting as instructors to participating Ranger groups from Churchill, Naujaat and Chesterfield Inlet, as part of Operation Nanook.

The Rangers will provide predator patrol and safety factors for soldiers working on the land.

The Nunavut exercise ran from Aug. 24 to 29, closing with a community day in Rankin Inlet.

But the bulk of the operation is happening in Whitehorse and Haines Junction, Yukon, where the remaining 600 people are collaborating on an earthquake response exercise running Aug. 21 to Sept 2. They call it collaborating, because the actors are not just military.

navy Lt. Rob Davenport of Joint Task Force North described the objective as an opportunity to work with government departments "from the federal to the local level."

A few examples include Public Safety and Environment Canada, the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, municipal groups such as firefighters and indigenous governments like the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

He said they learn to amalgamate resources and adapt processes of individual departments to be more compatible.

Davenport is working as a liaison with the Whitehorse contingent as part of Task Force Yukon.

He will be helping initiate situations within the disaster scenario for participants to react to.

He says since excess infrastructure isn't really a thing in Northern regions, they can't just knock down buildings to pretend there has been an earthquake.

"We find local buildings that we can do non-destructive work inside or buildings that have been abandoned and we have permission to use," he said.

The exercise will use Griffon and Chinook helicopters as well as strategic lift aircrafts to deliver needed supplies.

G wagons, or army trucks, and armoured vehicles are being used for command posts and communication points.

Cross says the operation can be eye-opening for military members.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for troops from the south to be educated in the ways of the North, the differences and the challenges up here," he said.

According to Cross, most military exercises have to consider things like environmental concerns and lack of access to supplies, but in the North, he said, "it is that much more extreme."

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