With a PhD in robotics from Durham University, Jeremy joined QinetiQ in 1994 to specialise in artificial intelligence for AGVs (Autonomous Ground Vehicles). But within a few years his attentions shifted to UAVs and air simulations as the company’s interest in both the vehicles and the UAS industry grew.
“The underlying technologies for ground and air are similar,” Jeremy explained, “and the air vehicle industry was rapidly expanding so the move made good economic sense.”
During ASTRAEA 1, Jeremy was mostly on the sidelines although he kept abreast of the research tasks and contributed to several workshops. “My expertise wasn’t really applicable to ASTRAEA 1,” he said, “because the first phase tasks were deliberately broad in scope. Among other things, they were looking for an overall assessment to determine what to focus on in ASTRAEA 2.”
With autonomy identified as a focus in the second phase, Jeremy is now involved in the programme looking at the array of UAV surveillance sensors (e.g. cameras and radar) and developing intelligent software systems to best utilise both sensor and data.
The UAV’s ground staff is also part of Jeremy’s intelligent behavior system because they’re an integral part of the mission. They must assess incoming sensor data quickly and accurately and make timely adjustments to the mission plan. Intelligent, decision support software enhances their ability to do this.
“Another factor is ensuring the smooth transfer of vehicle and sensor control between operators,” he said, “and we deal with different platforms so our intelligent behavior system must be applicable to a variety of sensor packages and UAV platforms.”
Asked about the future of UAV operations after ASTRAEA 2, Jeremy said he saw their commercial use in civil airspace as more of a regulatory and engineering challenge than a problem with technology.
“We have the basic technology now,” he explained, “and with further refinement it will be up to the task. But the regulatory issues could take decades to resolve unless there’s a very strong commercial case. If that happens, we could see UAVs overhead quite soon, say 2015-2020.”
QinetiQ is a leading international provider of technology-based services and solutions to the defence, security and related markets. The company develops and delivers services and solutions for government organisations, predominantly in the UK and US, including defence departments, intelligence services and security agencies. In addition, we provide technology insertion and consultancy services to commercial and industrial customers around the world. QinetiQ uses the in-depth technical and domain knowledge of its people to understand and help meet some of the most complex technical challenges faced by customers in the core markets of Defence, Security and Energy & Environment.