EW BrightSpark, James Henderson features in Electronic Weekly showing his progression over the past year of his career.

“It’s great to hear how EW BrightSparks are continuing to progress in the world of electronics, and James Henderson of Plextek has updated us with a project developing an electronically-scanned radar unit operating at mm-wave frequencies”

Nicholas Hill, CEO, Plextek summarises: “BrightSparks is a fantastic way to show your employees’ work is valued. It’s so important to get young people enthusiastic about their engineering careers and award recognition is a great motivational boost. The BrightSparks award last year won by James Henderson was well deserved and he has continued to shape his engineering career by contributing to key company projects here at Plextek.”

To read the full article click here

For more information, contact Plextek via press@plextek.com

Radar trials final

Cambridge, UK – 21st June 2018 – Innovation consultancy, Plextek have achieved groundbreaking results after successful air trials of a millimetre wave micro-radar designed for autonomous unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Funded by the newly formed Defence and Security Accelerator, as part of the Autonomous Last Mile Resupply competition, Plextek has tested the performance of a low size, weight and power radar as a sense and avoid drone mounted sensor.

Operating in the 60 GHz mm-waveband, results from trials indicated that the radar can provide a range of useful information to aid navigation in complex environments.



Peter Doig, Business Manager, Defence summarises:

For a drone to perform fully autonomous flight into unknown locations, it will be necessary for the radar sensor to detect the surrounding environment in front of and beneath the drone. In this manner, our trial was a success as results showed strongly visible returns from buildings, vegetation and objects.

Looking into the future, although it is possible that a single radar could provide sense and avoid capability as well as identifying suitable landing sites; within the wider systems context, this would more likely be realised with two sensors, one forward facing and one downward facing.”

The data gathered from the trials will be analysed in Plextek’s next phase of work within the program to further help understand the radar’s performance in different scenarios and environmental conditions.

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts via email: press@plextek.com or call: 01799 533200

BrightSparks

Cambridge, UK – 10th May 2018 – James Henderson, consultant at electronic design consultancy Plextek, has been named as a winner of Electronics Weekly’s “BrightSparks, Design Engineers of Tomorrow” Award. The electronics magazine’s award, in partnership with RS Components, honors an elite class of 30 engineers for their development initiatives and accomplishments within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors.

With nominees chosen by a judging panel of industry experts and leaders, the BrightSparks award highlights the achievements of young engineers and students who are already making a difference in the first few years of their working lives and are showing the promise to becoming the people behind tomorrow’s innovation in their respective industries.

This award marks the culmination of years of hard work for James as he has led our technical development and capability in mm-wave micro-radar for a number of projects at Plextek, including our recent radar work into Foreign Object Detection.

Electronics Weekly’s BrightSparks 2018 is the second year the programme has been running with this year’s ceremony being held at the prestigious IET Savoy Place in London.

BrightSparks award winner, James Henderson, Consultant in Antennas & Propagation summarises:

I’m really pleased to have been selected as an EW Brightspark. I’ve been involved in many exciting and cutting edge projects at Plextek, mentored by some brilliant engineers, and it’s great to have been recognised as someone to follow in their footsteps doing something which I enjoy and I’m passionate about.”

James Henderson receiving his award, presented by Clive Couldwell, Group Editor of Electronics Weekly (left) and Lindsley Ruth, CEO of RS Components (right).

Picture courtesy of Electronics Weekly, for more information about the award please visit: https://www.electronicsweekly.com/brightsparks/

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts via email: press@plextek.com or call: 01799 533200

Millimetre Wave Radar: A New Skyline for Autonomous UAS

Millimetre Wave Radar: A New Skyline for Autonomous UAS

James Henderson - Consultant, Antennas & Propagation

By: James Henderson
Consultant, Antennas & Propagation

23rd August 2017

Home » James Henderson

When people talk about what technology is going to be available in the future, most 10-year-olds will imagine a world where we’re all flying around with jet packs on our backs, or being waited on by Humanoid robots. But as an engineer involved in cutting-edge technology, I like to think about a more realistic short-term answer to such a question.

One of the biggest developments over the past decade has been in enabling the autonomy of road vehicles and, whilst various technology companies are promising self-driving cars in the near future, the smaller step of driver aids has become the norm for modern cars. As with most large scale industry advances where huge sums of money are invested in their development, new technologies often open up opportunities to other industries.

This has certainly been the case with the development of cheap millimetre wave (mm-wave) devices. These have come off the back of automotive radar modules for adaptive cruise control and automatic braking assistance. But rather than looking for large vehicles in lanes on the motorway, there are many alternative applications for a mm-wave radar sensor, both for use in civil and military scenarios.

For me, the futuristic application which this enables is that Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could soon be the common method for automatically delivering all manner of items. From completing takeaway meal orders to medi-kit drops for personnel on the front line – I may not be alone in having this vision but I can say that I’ve played a part in their development.

However, enabling the ability of autonomous flight for small UAS is not a trivial task. There are many difficulties involved with allowing swarms of UAS to safely navigate through the concrete jungle of an urban environment. They would need to avoid buildings, power lines, trees, and potentially other UAS on different errands.

This is especially difficult in a military context, where the environment could be hostile, complex and contested. Operations can take place day, night and in all weather conditions – this would be the case for the last mile resupply requirement (as stated in this most recent Defence and Security Accelerator competition).

For both scenarios, this requires a 3-dimensional situational awareness by detecting small objects, potentially out to hundreds of metres with a level of positional accuracy to allow a fast moving UAS to navigate through a cluttered environment. In this scenario, a low size, weight and power sensor is critical to its success, and pushing radar to operate at mm-wave frequencies could be the solution.

More often than not, radio engineers choose to go up in frequency to utilise the large amounts of available bandwidth, particularly for communication systems where users are demanding ever increasing data rates, but for this application, there’s another advantage. For high definition radar to achieve small angular resolution, the antenna needs to be large with respect to the wavelength. Therefore, increasing the frequency (which will reduce the wavelength) allows us to keep the same resolution in a smaller size.

At Plextek, we have been capitalising on the small wavelength of these mm-wave devices to design a complete radar front end on a single 10 x 10 cm circuit board. This minimises size and weight, but also system complexity, where transmit and receive antennas are inherently aligned on a flat panel.

There are many difficulties with working at higher mm-wave frequencies which primarily come from the increased precision required in every aspect of the design, as well as handling the higher loss associated with high-frequency systems. But the extra effort required is sure to be worth it if it means the Poppadoms in my Indian take away are still warm when they arrive cradled underneath an autonomous UAS. Or those vital supplies are delivered efficiently to personnel engaged in combat operations to maintain operational tempo and enable successful mission outcomes.

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When people talk about what technology is going to be available in the future, most 10-year-olds will imagine a world where we’re all flying around with jet packs on our backs, or being waited on by Humanoid robots. But as an engineer involved in cutting-edge technology, I like to think about a more realistic short-term answer to such a question.

One of the biggest developments over the past decade has been in enabling the autonomy of road vehicles and, whilst various technology companies are promising self-driving cars in the near future, the smaller step of driver aids has become the norm for modern cars. As with most large scale industry advances where huge sums of money are invested in their development, new technologies often open up opportunities to other industries.

This has certainly been the case with the development of cheap millimetre wave (mm-wave) devices. These have come off the back of automotive radar modules for adaptive cruise control and automatic braking assistance. But rather than looking for large vehicles in lanes on the motorway, there are many alternative applications for a mm-wave radar sensor, both for use in civil and military scenarios.

For me, the futuristic application which this enables is that Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could soon be the common method for automatically delivering all manner of items. From completing takeaway meal orders to medi-kit drops for personnel on the front line – I may not be alone in having this vision but I can say that I’ve played a part in their development.

However, enabling the ability of autonomous flight for small UAS is not a trivial task. There are many difficulties involved with allowing swarms of UAS to safely navigate through the concrete jungle of an urban environment. They would need to avoid buildings, power lines, trees, and potentially other UAS on different errands.

This is especially difficult in a military context, where the environment could be hostile, complex and contested. Operations can take place day, night and in all weather conditions – this would be the case for the last mile resupply requirement (as stated in this most recent Defence and Security Accelerator competition).

For both scenarios, this requires a 3-dimensional situational awareness by detecting small objects, potentially out to hundreds of metres with a level of positional accuracy to allow a fast moving UAS to navigate through a cluttered environment. In this scenario, a low size, weight and power sensor is critical to its success, and pushing radar to operate at mm-wave frequencies could be the solution.

More often than not, radio engineers choose to go up in frequency to utilise the large amounts of available bandwidth, particularly for communication systems where users are demanding ever increasing data rates, but for this application, there’s another advantage. For high definition radar to achieve small angular resolution, the antenna needs to be large with respect to the wavelength. Therefore, increasing the frequency (which will reduce the wavelength) allows us to keep the same resolution in a smaller size.

At Plextek, we have been capitalising on the small wavelength of these mm-wave devices to design a complete radar front end on a single 10 x 10 cm circuit board. This minimises size and weight, but also system complexity, where transmit and receive antennas are inherently aligned on a flat panel.

There are many difficulties with working at higher mm-wave frequencies which primarily come from the increased precision required in every aspect of the design, as well as handling the higher loss associated with high-frequency systems. But the extra effort required is sure to be worth it if it means the Poppadoms in my Indian take away are still warm when they arrive cradled underneath an autonomous UAS. Or those vital supplies are delivered efficiently to personnel engaged in combat operations to maintain operational tempo and enable successful mission outcomes.

Save

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