Where Investment Thrives

Aerospace & Defence

Industry Profile

Aerospace & Defence

Alberta’s competitive aerospace and defence sector is an important economic driver for the province.

The province’s aerospace and defence sector is recognized for being competitive and innovative, and delivering cutting-edge products and services. The sector is comprised of three main sub-industries that support:

  • commercial aerospace activities
  • defence projects and initiatives
  • space and communications technology research and development

These areas offer investors growth opportunities in a wide variety of sub-sectors including, remotely piloted and autonomous systems, geomatics, space sciences and defence electronics.

Key Strengths

  • WestJet, one of Canada’s largest commercial airlines, is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.
  • Flair Airlines, a low-cost commercial carrier, is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. 
  • Foremost, Alberta is home to one of only two Transport Canada approved remotely piloted aircraft systems (also known as unmanned aerial systems) test ranges.
  • Defence Research and Development Canada Suffield is a leader in defence science and technology and develops and delivers new technical solutions and advice to Defence departments and commercial companies.
  • Alberta’s expertise in aerospace-based geomatics is unmatched in Canada.
  • Alberta has excellent flying weather, abundant land and wide open spaces, making Alberta an excellent place for light training.
  • The Alberta Aerospace and Technology Center focuses on innovative technology research and commercialization of remotely piloted aircraft systems, AI, flight simulators and other innovative technologies

Areas of expertise


Remotely piloted aircraft systems

Alberta is an emerging Canadian leader in this sector with expertise in areas such as, robotics, systems integration, wireless communications, remote sensing, avionics navigation and global positioning systems. Foremost, Alberta is home to Canada’s only beyond-line of sight, restricted airspace, making it a desirable place for companies to test remotely piloted aircraft systems technology.


Aircraft manufacturing

Alberta companies manufacture regional and medium haul commercial aircraft. 


Maintenance, repair and overhaul

Alberta companies provide maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification of military and commercial aircraft. This high-tech sub-sector produces various components such as aircraft parts and engines.


Helicopter industry

Alberta’s sub-sector specializes in flight training, maintenance, repair and operations, charters, and service provision to the Energy, Forestry, Environmental and wildlife sectors.


Air cargo logistics

Alberta has two Foreign Trade Zones, a well-developed freight and e-commerce distribution network and expanding warehousing and distribution facilities. This network includes two International Airports with significant full freight aircraft cargo handling, consolidation and freight forwarding capabilities.


Defence electronics

Alberta companies are making and maintaining the Canadian Forces' communications systems, software, specialized sensors, and other electronic components.


Aerospace-based geomatics and scientific research

Alberta’s expertise in the areas of space physics, instrumentation, imaging and materials is unmatched in Canada.

aircraft dashboard

Training and simulation

Alberta has an excellent reputation for producing highly qualified pilots. The Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre (AATC) (flyeia.com/aatc) operates helicopter and Boeing 737 level D simulators.

fighter jet


Four of Canada's most important military bases are located in Alberta. These bases include military ranges where aerospace testing can be done.


Corporate Aviation

Alberta is home to 420 of Canada's 1,900 registered business aviation aircraft. Business aviation is a major contributor to Alberta's economy. Headquartered in Calgary, WestJet airlines has scheduled service to 100 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Research and Development

Many Alberta companies, military agencies and educational institutions are working in various forms of remotely piloted aircraft systems research and development, testing, and manufacturing.

  • Defence Research and Development Canada’s Suffield Research Centre offers expertise in military engineering, autonomous systems and testing areas for new technologies.
  • The National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta is a world-class nanotechnology research centre.
  • Alberta Innovates is a provincially funded Corporation tasked with delivering on the research and innovation priorities of the Government of Alberta.
  • Applied Research and Innovation Services at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. The Centre for Innovation and Research into Unmanned Systems is the newest research group within ARIS and is devoted to all things unmanned, and with a specific focus on unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • The Alberta Aerospace Technology Centre is the result of a partnership between Edmonton International Airport (EIA), Canadian North, Canadian Helicopters, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) and the Government of Alberta to build a cluster of activity in aerospace and technology at EIA. Current projects include flight simulators (Helicopters and Boeing 737 Level D), Robirds to control bird strike, and remote operated vehicles and systems for air, land and water.
  • The Centre for Sensors and System Integration at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) focuses on prototyping devices that address sensor-based challenges in advanced technology, resource extraction, agriculture and biomedical enterprises. Working through both established sensor devices and new or innovative devices, CSSI uses engineering technologies to produce and evaluate prototypes for field trials.

Several of Alberta's key post-secondary institutions are also involved in supporting research and development in the aerospace and defence industry:

  • Medicine Hat College offers emerging capacity in unmanned aerial systems and is interested in supporting organizations using the foremost range. 
  • The University of Alberta's Unmanned Aerial Systems multidisciplinary research spans design, applications and fieldwork across the Departments of Electrical & Computer, Mechanical, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Computing Science and Renewable Resources.
  • The University of Calgary's interdisciplinary research includes research and development on unmanned aerial systems technology, applications and analytics. 
  • The University of Lethbridge also has extensive research capacity and specialized facilities in science and engineering disciplines that support innovation aerospace and space industries

Aerospace News

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Business Support Programs

Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Credit - https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/scientific-research-experimental-development-tax-incentive-program.html
SR&ED is a federal tax incentive program designed to encourage Canadian businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to conduct research and development in Canada.

Alberta-Europe Technology Collaboration Fund - http://www.gccir.ca/alberta-europe-collaboration-fund/
This program helps foster partnerships between Alberta SMEs and European companies or research institutions on joint industrial R&D projects.

Alberta Enterprise Corporation - http://www.alberta-enterprise.ca/
AEC invests in Alberta-focused venture capital funds that finance early stage technology start-ups in Alberta.

Canada-Alberta Jobs Grant (CAJG) - https://www.alberta.ca/canada-alberta-job-grant.aspx
CAJG is an employer-driven training program where employers and government share the cost of training new and existing employees.


Alberta Aviation Council - http://www.albertaaviationcouncil.com/
Alberta Aviation Council is an association representing the aerospace, airport, and aviation industry in Alberta.

Canadian Business Aviation Association - https://www.cbaa-acaa.ca/
The CBAA is Canada's voice for business aviation, with a membership of approximately 400 companies and organizations, including operators, management companies and suppliers.

Western Canadian Defence Industries Association - https://www.wcdia.com/
This association represents the Canadian defence industry in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and hosts WestDef, Canada's premiere defence and security conference.

Western Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Association - http://www.wamea.com/
WAMEA is an organization equipping its members with the knowledge and professionalism which distinguishes the occupation of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) in the aviation industry.

Alberta Innovates - https://albertainnovates.ca/
Alberta Innovates is a catalyst for innovation. Innovators, businesses and researchers can easily tap into our collective assets – cross sectoral knowledge and expertise, funding, networks and research facilities.

ACAMP - https://www.acamp.ca/
ACAMP is a unique industry-led product development centre that helps advanced technology entrepreneurs commercialize their products by providing access to multidisciplinary engineers, technology experts, unique specialized equipment, and industry [Read More]

C-FER Technologies - https://www.cfertech.com/joint-industry-projects
C-FER Technologies works with oil and gas industry and client subject matter experts to develop solutions to unique engineering problems in upstream drilling and production operations as well as midstream and downstream pipeline operations.

TECTERRA - http://www.tecterra.com/
Tecterra provides programs and funding to Alberta companies involved in commercializing geospatial solutions.

DRDC Suffield - https://www.canada.ca/en/defence-research-development/services/research-centres.html
Defence Research and Development Canada Suffield research centre is internationally recognized for its R&D in chemical and biological defence.

National Institute for Nanotechnology - http://www.nint-innt.ca/
NINT established a unique nanotechnology collaboration hub in a $52.2 million, 20,000m2 purpose-built facility on UAlberta campus in Edmonton that has supported industry while attracting and developing world-class talent.


Invest Alberta (Investment Services)
Email: invest.alberta@gov.ab.ca 


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