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Drones, internet-connected vests and exoskeletons were put to test on the streets of Montreal. 150 unarmed soldiers and more than 100 researchers participated in a training operation focused on support and reconnaissance in urban environments. This complex project is unprecedented in Canada. Montreal presents unique operational challenges for the soldiers due to the variety of buildings and terrains.

The new military equipment tested is designed to protect both soldiers and civilians. The exoskeleton, for example, is designed to make it easier to carry heavy loads.

“So, in theory, they shouldn’t be feeling as much weight as they’re carrying,” explains researcher Thomas Karakolis.

The exoskeleton is especially useful in urban environments where soldiers move up and down buildings for an extended period of time.

Three scenarios were presented for the soldiers to hone their skills using the new technology: gathering intelligence in an urban environment, providing support to soldiers in an urban environment and protecting a perimeter.

One of the most important realms incorporated into the project is experimentation with chemical and biological agent detection, in case of an attack or a leak. Sensors were placed on an abandoned industrial site next to the port three kilometers away, to detect simulated chemical releases.

Instead of using chemical agents, researchers are “using the product that you use to clean your keyboard,” as explained by experimentation director Patrick Maupin. Additionally, to simulate the chemical release, they use powdered egg white in small amounts. The sensor is then triggered to detect release, and a mobile detection station and flying drones were used in that operation, as reported by globalnews.ca.

A network-connected tactical vest was tested. It can be used to transmit video and location data, text messages and email so that the soldier of the future need not worry about mishearing orders over the radio.

According to cbc.ca, soldiers were trained on how to construct portable structures that are resistant to ballistic and fragmentation damage, in 45 minutes.