A retired Royal Navy Officer whose career embraced both ship-driving and flying helicopters, Richard joined Cobham in 1999. Initially with Cobham Aviation Services on the commercial airborne Surveillance and Surveying side, he has been part of the ASTRAEA Programme since its start in 2006 when Cobham Mission Equipment (CME) became one of the seven Phase I partners.
“Phase I saw us participating in a number of projects,” Richard recalled, “including Integration with the Operating Environment; Communications and ATC Integration; Collision Avoidance Systems; Multiple Air Vehicle Integration and Prognosis and Health Management. We undertook some flight trials and I was heavily involved with the integrated Synthetic Environment demonstration at parc Aberporth towards the end of the project.”
CME’s ASTRAEA II work will leverage their expertise in Air to Air Refuelling and look predominantly at the “Hook-up problem space”. This is that complex manoeuvring arena where the receiver aircraft’s fuel probe is guided into the tanker’s fuel hose drogue for mechanical coupling and subsequent fuel delivery. There are numerous subtle challenges to overcome from fine aircraft manoeuvre to fuel equipment alterations.
“Autonomous Air to Air Refuelling is a vital component of future commercial UAS operations,” Richard explained, “because it extends their operational effectiveness from a matter of hours into days or even weeks.”
To assist this effort, Richard’s team will create a relative motion centre of excellence at the University of Bristol. A Relative Motion Robotics Rig will be installed as hardware in the loop to provide a cost effective research and trials capability for evolving technology. It will also be capable of providing wider exploitation and utility to industry and academia for relative motion work plus research into robotic composites manufacture.
As CME’s Programme Manager Research and Technology, Richard’s corporate duties include responsibility for the delivery of the ASTRAEA programme. He was on the ASTRAEA II planning team and continues today as Cobham’s representative for both the ASTRAEA Industrial Executive (AIE) and the Steering Board.
The AIE is formed of representatives from each of the Industrial partners under the guidance of the independent Project Director. Its purpose is to oversee project progress, address emerging issues and resolve industry disputes, while interacting with the Public Sector funders through the Joint Customer ASTRAEA Board (JCAB).
The Steering Board is composed of a wider group of UAS interested parties and operates under the ASTRAEA Chairman. It co-ordinates external communications and provides a valuable strategic overview of the ASTRAEA Project.
Cobham’s products and services have been at the heart of sophisticated military and civil systems for more than 75 years, keeping people safe, improving communications, and enhancing the capability of land, sea, air and space platforms. The Company has three divisions employing more than 11,000 people on five continents, with customers and partners in over 100 countries and annual revenue of some £1.9bn / $3 billion.
About Cobham Mission Equipment
Cobham Mission Equipment is a systems integration business that has been providing innovative solutions to its customers for over 75 years. The business is the market leader for air-to-air refuelling (AAR), providing fifth generation ‘nose to tail’ solutions from the cockpit of the tanker aircraft, to the tail of the receiver platform. More than 1,000 systems have been delivered for buddy-buddy refuelling, tactical and strategic tanking for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, with unmanned air vehicle refuelling development well advanced.
The ‘nose to tail’ AAR capability is complemented by a comprehensive ‘wingtip to wingtip’ offering, covering a range of weapons carriage and release equipment, including missile launchers, cryogenic cooling for missile seekers, pneumatic missile fin actuation and wing store carriers, bomb ejection, defensive aids, chaff and flare systems.
Mission Equipment is also a systems solution provider in the field of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robot technology, providing a range of unmanned ground systems and robots serving international homeland security and military markets, with more than 700 systems delivered to 55 countries.