Ottawa aerospace firm Gastops lands federal funding to boost oil-testing technology

East Ottawa firm to work with major engine manufacturer on next-generation sensors
Gastops CEO Dave Muir’s firm is getting a seven-figure investment from the feds. (OBJ file photo)

An Ottawa firm that makes diagnostic tools for commercial and military aircraft is part of a group of Canadian companies that will receive nearly $50 million in federal funding to develop new technologies for next-generation helicopters.

Gastops specializes in sensors that detect and measure tiny metallic contaminants in engine oil. As part of the funding program announced last month, it will work with a number of major corporate partners in the aerospace industry, including Pratt & Whitney Canada, to create and demonstrate new products designed to help extend the life of helicopter engines.

Gastops CEO Dave Muir wouldn’t divulge the exact amount the company will receive from the federal government, saying only it’s a seven-figure investment. Under the shared funding arrangement, Gastops will foot about 45 per cent of the total bill for the project, which will see it develop more advanced methods of monitoring and analyzing oil debris.

“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase to Pratt & Whitney Canada what we can do to help them better monitor the health of their engines and reduce … operating costs,” said Muir, adding the federal funding is “a significant amount of money for a company of our size.”

Based in the Canotek Business Park, Gastops was founded in 1979. Its products act like an early warning system that alerts mechanics to the presence of metallic debris in an engine’s lubricants, a “telltale sign” of wear and tear, Muir said.

Gastops’ next generation of products features sensors that can be placed directly on an engine’s components to detect the presence of potentially harmful metallic debris in oil. It’s also developing high-tech methods of determining exactly what type of metal those shards are made of as a way to more quickly pinpoint the source of the wear.

“Ottawa is a fantastic place to attract and retain high-calibre knowledge workers on the technology side. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”

Gastops will use part of the new funding to work with Pratt & Whitney, one of the world’s largest aircraft engine manufacturers, on a new oil analysis method as well as to demonstrate how its products can be integrated together.

The federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development is investing a total of $49.5 million in the new program. The cash will be dispersed to 19 industry and academic partners, including major players such as Bell Helicopter Textron Canada and CMC Electronics as well as nine universities.

In addition to the most recent announcement, Gastops has a number of projects on the go with other customers and corporate partners, including the U.S. army, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. Around 110 of its 140 employees work in Ottawa, with the rest in St. John’s and Halifax.

“We’ve grown a fair bit in the last year,” Muir said. “Ottawa is a fantastic place to attract and retain high-calibre knowledge workers on the technology side. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”