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As Gatwick grapples with drones, Canadian military eyes ways to drone-proof airspace

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The key to detecting tiny drones spying on military bases or intruding into an airport’s airspace could be to use an existing TV signal.

Canada’s Department of National Defence is exploring using regular television signals to create a radar system that would detect flying intruders the size of an insect, as well as using other drone detection technologies.

The military is worried about spying drones collecting real-time video of its operations as the machines become smaller, cheaper and more expendable. 

And the chaos caused by drones flying into airspace at Britain’s Gatwick Airport this week show the small devices can have big consequences.  

As drone technology has evolved, drone detection techniques need to keep pace. Some drones have even been fashioned to look like birds to help them better blend into the environment. Others are equipped with gripping claws allowing them to perch on a tree limb or ledge for better surveillance, according to a reference document written in 2016 by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), a DND agency.

“Small drones are increasingly being used for spying/reconnaissance applications. They are small in size and hard to detect,” said the document titled, Counter-measures against drone surveillance.

“They can pose real and significant threats to military operations,” it stated.

This is a drone made to look like a female falcon, but it’s not used for spying. It’s to drive real birds away from the Edmonton International Airport. (John Robertson/CBC) 

How radar detection system works

To counter that threat, DND has been researching how to better detect spying drones with DRDC examining several different technologies.

According to the document, one of the best solutions found was to create a passive radar detection system using TV signals.

The system works by monitoring the constant TV signals in the air. When these signals hit an object, they can be detected by the system. 

“Firstly, TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones,” said the DRDC document. 

TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones.– Document from Defence Research and Development Canada, an agency of DND

“Since TV transmission towers have been a fixture in the urban landscape for a long time, people are used to and accepting their presence.

“Secondly, TV signal is free of charge: there is essentially no cost for tapping into the TV signal transmission.

“Thirdly, TV signals are transmitted continuously 24/7, making it an ideal source for radar surveillance application.” 

The researchers suggest the TV transmitter at Camp Fortune in Ottawa could be used to monitor high-value infrastructure in a 17-kilometre radius. It would even be able to pick up insect-sized drones operating within a five-kilometre radius around the Ottawa International Airport.  

Battery-operated drones with a range greater than 50 kilometres are already available on the commercial hobby market, according to Defence Research and Development Canada, a DND agency. (Sarawut Chamsaeng/Shutterstock)

Other ways of detecting drones

But the technology does have its flaws. Any radar system that can pick up small drones can pick up birds as well, both of which have similar radar signatures that could result in false alarms. 

However, the document suggests this problem may soon be solved by artificial intelligence algorithms that can tell the difference between a bird and a drone by analyzing the different ways they move. 

There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.– Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council

The military isn’t alone in looking to develop better ways of detecting drones. The National Research Council of Canada has been examining drone detection technology for the last three years. 

It has looked at a range of different ways to locate drones, including advanced radar that’s good at detecting small objects, acoustic technology that can recognize drone sounds and a radio frequency detection system that tracks down the radio signals exchanged between a drone and its operator.

Charles Vidal is a research engineer with the National Research Council. (Noémie Moukanda/Radio-Canada)

Engineers also explored using thermal imaging cameras to highlight a drone’s heat signature and advanced cameras that can spot drones from far away.

“There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses,” said Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council. 

Much demand from other sectors

Vidal said there’s a lot of demand for this kind of technology from many different sectors.

Industrial sites like oil refineries want to keep drones away from dangerous equipment. Even jails and prisons want to locate drones to keep them from dropping contraband into their institutions.  

But airports contacted by CBC News haven’t embraced these new technologies, even though the number of drones spotted too close to airports and aircraft in Canada more than tripled between 2014 and 2017 from 38 to 135. There have been 95 incidents reported to Transport Canada this year, as of Nov. 30. 

Toronto Pearson International Airport said in a statement earlier this month that it is not currently investigating the use of drone detection systems. The spokesperson went on to say that drones are “not much of an issue” around the airport at present. 

However, it will continue to monitor drone activity near the airport and respond accordingly. 

Vidal says companies that run industrial sites are interested in ways to detect drones to keep them away from dangerous areas. (FS11/Shutterstock)

The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is taking a similar approach. It’s monitoring the availability and usage of devices to detect drone activity near the airport, but hasn’t yet used that technology.

In 2016, a plane en route to Billy Bishop had a close call with a drone and had to take evasive action to avoid it. Two flight attendants ended up with minor injuries.

Under Canadian law, drones can’t be flown within 5.6 kilometres of airports or 1.9 kilometres of heliports. Endangering aircraft is a particularly serious offence that can carry fines of up to $25,000 or possible prison time. 

In Nova Scotia, a spokesperson for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport said it doesn’t make public what kind of detection technology it does or does not have. 

Still, Vidal said there are others willing to adopt the new drone detection technologies.

“Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation,” he said. “These systems are getting deployed more and more.”   

Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation.– Charles Vidal

   

The DRDC document recommends hands-on testing as well. 

Its authors wanted the DRDC to start an in-house project to develop prototype detection systems.

The DND has not said what kind of technology it has adopted or might adopt to detect drones. 

No one from the department would agree to an interview. 

In an emailed statement, the department said it will continue to examine the threats drones pose and will keep evaluating existing drone detection systems and countermeasures, including “potential physical, electromagnetic and other protection improvements.”  

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5 ways to pay off a loan faster

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Gaining access to a loan has gotten easier and easier, but borrowers must still navigate a system that offers both good and bad loans. With so many options and hidden clauses, finding the right strategy for paying off a loan faster can seem complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Borrowers can still achieve financial freedom quickly while remaining Zen.

Here are five ways to pay off a loan faster:

1. Increasing the monthly payment

Yes, this is an obvious strategy and might seem difficult to do at first glance. However, you’d be surprised at what you can really do when you use a loan payment calculator to determine how much you’ll save on interest payments if the loan is closed ahead of schedule.

Before calculating the amount to increase the monthly payment, borrowers need to contact their bank to find out:

  • how early repayment takes place;
  • what hidden fees and penalties exist for early repayment;
  • whether it is necessary to write an application;
  • when the payments can be made.

All these factors can significantly affect the final amount due. Often, the contract contains hidden payments and sanctions for early full or partial repayment of the loan. It is less profitable for a bank to allow their client to close a loan or credit account ahead of time. For this reason, many companies resort to all sorts of tricks to prevent clients from paying off their loans early.

2. Finding an additional source of income

Another perhaps overlooked approach to paying off a loan is to simply increase your income. Some options for doing this might include

  • getting a part-time job;
  • working additional shifts;
  • looking for temporary seasonal openings;
  • engaging in a one-time project;
  • selling unnecessary or unused household items.

Whatever the activity, it does not have to be related to the borrower’s main profile and specialization. In spring and summer, unskilled workers are constantly required for cleaning summer cottages, harvesting crops, or pruning bushes. In the winter, it can be tutoring, cleaning apartments, construction and repair work, tailoring, and freelancing.

3. Minimizing expenses

Many borrowers find it impossible to pay off their loans without cutting costs.

So, it is a good idea to analyze your income and expenses, leaving room for only the essentials.

Borrowers need to be as honest as possible with themselves and clearly define what they can temporarily refuse in favor of quick loan repayment.

During this period, borrowers should avoid unnecessary expenses or online shopping, and develop a rational but economical meal plan.

Cutting costs should also include getting rid of expensive habits like alcohol, cigarettes, morning lattes on the way to work, lunch with employees in a cafe, or Friday evenings out with friends. However, borrowers should have in mind that these are only temporary harsh measures to shorten the loan term that will help them get out of debt.

4. Rounding up the Payments

Rounding up the payments is an interesting strategy to reduce the time it will take to pay off the loan. For example, a borrower owing $425 a month can decide to be paying $500 a month. This little commitment adds up to an extra 75$ in repayment every month. Over time, that adds up to a significant amount, saving interest payments and getting the borrowers out of debt ahead of schedule.

5. Speeding up the loan repayment

Another clever strategy is to make a bi-weekly payment rather than just one monthly payment. Which is better: paying $1000 per month or $500 every two weeks? The second strategy wins.

To really speed up the loan repayment, borrowers could divide their monthly payment in half and pay that amount every two weeks. This means making 26 half-payments in one year, which is the equivalent of a whole additional monthly payment. This 13th payment is called the accelerator. It allows borrowers to pay off their loans faster.

The bottom line

Paying off the loan faster decreases the overall term of the loan and helps borrowers get out of debt ahead of schedule.

In addition to adopting the strategies above, borrowers may be able to help themselves by adopting good financial habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Borrowers who spend less than what they earn can reduce their debt and even start saving for other projects. They can do this by revising their monthly budget. This allows them to control their game plan and quickly see where they need to adjust.

These good habits will not only help people take control of their debt, but also take control of their general finances.

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Future of Ottawa: Coffee with Francis Bueckert

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Francis Bueckert: When it comes to the current landscape of coffee-roasting companies and independent cafes in Ottawa, I think we are at a really interesting moment in time. There are more local roasters that are doing artisanal small-batch production—with more attention to the quality and origin of the beans.

With larger corporations such as Starbucks closing locations, it has opened a bit of space for local players to grow. We have been lucky to work with many folks in the coffee-roasting community, and we have found that there is a willingness to collaborate among different coffee roasters. For example, when Cloudforest started back in 2014, we were roasting our coffee at Happy Goat and it was the expertise of their head roaster Hans that helped me learn how to roast. Other companies such as Brown Bag Coffee have also lent a hand when we needed extra roasting capacity. There are others, such as Lulo, Mighty Valley Coffee, Bluebarn, The Artery, and Little Victories that are also part of the growing local coffee community. It’s small roasters like these who have shown me what a coffee community can look like, and that we can help to elevate each other, rather than being locked in competition.

If you care to make a prediction… What’s happening to the local café industry in 2021?

We believe that there is hope and that 2021 can be a big pivot year for small roasters and cafes.

This year will not be ideal from a business point of view. However, it could create a shift in people’s attitude toward where they get their coffee. We are holding out hope that people will support the roasters and cafes that are local to help them economically survive what is in all reality a very difficult time.

It all depends on where consumers decide to go this year. People are starting to recognize that supporting large corporations at this moment will be at the cost of the local roasters and cafes. There is the growing realization that a future where there is only Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks would be pretty bleak. So we have an opportunity this year to support the kind of local businesses that we want to see thrive.

In your wildest dreams, what will the landscape for local coffee roasters and cafés look like in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, all of the coffee roasters and cafés would be locally owned and independent. They would all be focused on direct trade and artisanal coffee. Each different coffee roaster and café would know exactly where their coffee came from. Ideally, each company would be a partnership between the farmers who grow the beans and the people here selling them. There would be a focus on how to cooperate and collaborate with the farmers in the countries of origin to share the benefits around. We would all work together and share orders of cups, lids, and other packaging so that we could get better bulk pricing. In this way, we would make our local coffee community so efficient that the large corporate coffee companies wouldn’t even be able to compete.

We would also like to see people use coffee as a way to create social good. For example, we started Cloudforest as a way of helping support farmers in Ecuador who were taking a stand against large mining companies. This remote community stood up to protect their environment, so that they could have clean drinking water and soil for the next generation. They started an organic coffee cooperative to help show that there are other models of development, and we are doing our part year after year to help support their vision. They have a vision of development that does not include mass deforestation and contamination, and organic coffee is a key (among others) to show that another way forward is possible.

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Special events in the Ottawa Valley dominate annual OVTA tourism awards

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The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association hopes that its annual tourism awards will provide a little sunshine during what is a dark time for local tourism operators because of the pandemic.

The Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards are presented annually by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) to individuals, businesses, and events that recognize the importance of working together for the growth of the local tourism industry, as well as offering exceptional visitor experiences.

“After a year that saw a lot of businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry being challenged like never before, the annual Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards represent a bit of light on the horizon” said Chris Hinsperger, co-owner of the Bonnechere Caves.

The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s (OVTA) Awards Committee co-chairpersons, Meghan James and Chris Hinsperger, said they were very pleased with the recent nominations received, especially in the Special Events category. Submissions were received for The Farm to Fork Dinner Series at the Whitewater Inn; Light up the Valley; The Eganville Curling Clubs’ Rock the Rings; The Ontario Festival of Small Halls ; The Bonnechere Caves On-line Underground Concert Series; The Opeongo Nordic Ski Clubs’ Ski Loppet; The Tour de Bonnechere — Ghost de Tour 2020; and The Bonnechere Caves Rock ‘n Roll Parking Lot Picnic.

“During a time when communities were challenged, it is nice to see that people still made an effort to get together and celebrate, albeit under certain conditions. It just shows the creativity and resiliency of our tourism Community here in the valley” said Meghan James, director of sales at the Pembroke Best Western.

There are three Award categories: The Marilyn Alexander Tourism Champion Award, The Business of Distinction and The Special Event of the Year.

Hinsperger, is excited about this year’s awards.

“During this pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry was the first to be hit, was the hardest hit and will be the last of our industries to fully recover. As Valley entrepreneurs we owe it to ourselves, to our businesses and to our communities to be an active part of that recovery. Our livelihood and economic recovery depends on our efforts. And we will get back to welcoming people from all over the world to share a little bit of the place we are privileged to call home. This awards process leaves myself and others fully optimistic about our positive outcomes.”

Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s virtual annual general meeting on Monday, May 31.

The OVTA is the destination marketing organization for the Upper Ottawa Valley and proudly represents more than 200 tourism businesses, comprised of attractions and outfitters, accommodation, food, beverage and retail establishments, artists and galleries, municipalities, as well as media and industry suppliers. The OVTA is supported by the County of Renfrew, Renfrew County municipalities and the City of Pembroke.

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