Lachapelle, Dr. Gérard

2004 Alberta Technology, Recipient

Making Alberta World Renowned Centre for GPS

Professor Gérard Lachapelle’s pioneering work has helped make Alberta a world-class centre of excellence in Global Positioning System (GPS) and related geomatics technologies. In the early 1980s, Prof. Lachapelle led the investigation and development of GPS – a satellite-based navigation and positioning technology – for Sheltech Canada, one of the first commercial organizations in the world to undertake this work. Satellite-based navigation is an area of geomatics, the science of collecting and managing geographical information. Prof. Lachapelle helped found Norstar Instruments, which became NovAtel, a leading Calgary-based manufacturer and exporter of advanced GPS equipment.

Developing 'Must Have' Technology

Since joining the University of Calgary’s Department of Geomatics Engineering in 1988, Prof. Lachapelle has built a strong research team, cementing the department’s reputation as the national centre of expertise in GPS. The university has licensed technologies developed by Prof. Lachapelle and his team to more than 160 organizations in 20 countries, generating more than $5 million in revenue. Many of these innovative technologies have become “must haves” for research institutions and commercial GPS developers around the world.

Varied Applications

Prof. Lachapelle’s research contributes to commercial applications in a wide range of areas from natural resource management, agriculture, transportation and recreation to defence and national security. His innovative advanced signal tracking methodology is used to track satellites of the European Union’s Galileo satellite-based navigation system, now under development. Prof. Lachapelle’s success has been credited partly to his ability to foresee the impact of forthcoming developments and disruptive technologies and to continually adjust his research accordingly.

The result is a judicial mix of fundamental and applied research that maximizes benefits for industry. As a direct consequence of Prof. Lachapelle’s efforts, Alberta has become a magnet for some of the world’s top researchers and for businesses seeking to commercialize GPS and related geomantic technologies. This combined industry-academic strength has made GPS and geomantic applications a big growth industry in Alberta, particularly in Calgary, over the past 15 years and that growth is expected to continue. Prof. Lachapelle has received major international accolades for his work including the coveted Johannes Kepler Award of the U.S. Institute of Navigation, honorary professorships from universities abroad, and scores of best paper awards at international conferences. In 2001, he was awarded a Canada Research Chair and an iCORE Chair in Wireless Location to continue his work in geomantic.