How TACTIQL is turning commercial products into military innovations

May 2, 2024

As a seasoned veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Mike Nelson intimately understands the potential benefits of leveraging commercial scale and innovation within a military framework.  However, it wasn’t until his experience pursuing an executive MBA at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management that Nelson started crafting a vision of how these advantages could be realized. 

The logo for the Telfer school of Management, University of OttawaDuring Nelson’s time at U of O, he cultivated a passion for the complex intersection of military operations, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurial ventures. Motivated by this newfound interest, he left the military after a 12-year career to bootstrap a company that could fulfill military needs using commercially available products.  

The result is TACTIQL, a 10-person team that specializes in leveraging AI to generate accurate, high-quality video data from military aircraft.  

An image of a drone in the foreground, with the operators out of focus in the background. An immediate focus for TACTIQL is adapting commercial-grade drones for military use at scale. This transition is crucial, especially as these drones are likely to be lost in contested environments, and promises significant cost savings – potentially replacing single military-grade drones with numerous commercial units.  

However, this adaptation faces significant challenges that include resolving issues with data integrity such as faulty or lost metadata packets, geospatial inaccuracies, and discrepancies in data formats across different codecs and network communication systems.  

To address these issues, TACTIQL is working on conditioning and enriching the data for seamless interoperability with internal and external systems of the Canadian Armed Forces.   

This involves making the data compatible with military visualization and analytics software and ensuring reliable data transmission in the highly mobile and complex field environments that require coordination among multiple joint, allied, and partner forces, including NATO.  

Ottawa’s catalyst for defence innovation 

Mike Nelson - founder of Tactiql standing behind a presentation table.

Invest Ottawa’s Venture Path has been instrumental in TACTIQL’s journey.  Using the advanced facilities at Area X.O (operated by Invest Ottawa), the company takes advantage of resources such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operation, robust communication infrastructure, and comprehensive on-site support. These facilities provide critical support for TACTIQL to develop, test, and demonstrate their innovative products.  

TACTIQL’s technology was prominently featured at the 2023 TCXpo event (led by Invest Ottawa), which drew attention from key military stakeholders, including representatives from NATO’s Defence Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA). It was also a momentous year for Nelson personally, as he was recognized with the prestigious Forty under 40″ business award, acknowledging his impactful contributions to the Ottawa-area business community. 

As the national hub for Canada’s aerospace, defence, and security sector, Ottawa is a natural place for companies like TACTIQL. This is reinforced by the help Invest Ottawa and Area X.O give to defence startups.  

As Nelson puts it: “The Area X.O team has been phenomenal – their support makes us feel at home and they take great care of us. We’re actively working with the Canadian Armed Forces and, with the help we get from Area X.O, we are not only meeting expectations but also seeing the potential to scale the value we offer.” 

By aligning cutting-edge technology with strategic support systems, TACTIQL is poised to make substantial contributions to Canada’s national defence capabilities and its economy, illustrating the profound impact of public-private partnerships in fostering innovation and security. 

The IO Venture Path comprises four programs, each designed and delivered at a different stage in the business lifecycle. Discover programs that fit your venture and your journey here.

Accelerate your innovation: Visit the Area X.O website to discover how it can help you achieve your breakthrough.


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