Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems

The Organisation

Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems (UECIS), based in London, is a specialist business within the Ultra Electronics Group and is a market leader in the provision of secure communications; information assurance and intelligence; surveillance; target acquisition; and reconnaissance systems to defence customers worldwide.

www.ultra-electronics.com

The Challenge

In this Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems worked with the School of Computing and Communications (SCC) at Lancaster University to develop a real-time integrated security monitoring and management system for the communication of situational awareness from remote locations, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, over satellite and local broadband links.

Originally, Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems initiated this KTP to gain expert input to develop an aircraft cabin surveillance system that would enable the crew to stream live images to ground in the event of an incident. However, changes to industry regulations and markets cut customer demand for this product.

Fortunately, at that time Ultra identified a market opportunity for a system providing live images to ground from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over satellite and local broadband data-links. By continuing with the collaboration, the company gained a highly-motivated and skilled associate in Alex Tarter, together with access to the expertise in communications technology and aviation security research within the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University.

Expertise Sought

  • Computer networking
  • Project management
  • Communication systems knowledge

The Solution

Academics from the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University provided the expertise and experience needed to deliver this KTP. Professor Garik Markarian, an international expert in communications technology, was the lead academic.

KTP is a European programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.

Cost

KTPs are funded by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board, TSB) with 12 other funding organisations. These funding organisations include research councils, the devolved administrations and a number of other Government departments recognising the importance of knowledge transfer to economic development and wealth creation. Innovate UK is a business-led organisation established by the UK Government to accelerate research and development, and foster innovation for the benefit of UK business.

Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems made a contribution towards the KTP, which had a total value of £15,000.

Impact

Overall the KTP has been a great success, meeting all objectives and providing significant benefits for all parties involved. Ultra has gained expertise in the design and testing of new products. An enhanced understanding of computer networking continues to benefit its datalink work, with a computer-centric view complementing its more traditional radio engineering approach and potentially opening new markets for its data-link products.

These new capabilities have been demonstrated in meeting the key objective of developing a monitoring system using communications via UAVs, exploiting Alex's expertise to adapt video equipment so that images could be sent in real-time over Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems' new and unique High Integrity Data Link (HIDL).This innovative project has generated much publicity through exhibitions and the presentation of papers at several key conferences, raising the profile of Ultra in new market areas. The enhanced product range is expected to increase sales by around £500,000 a year.

A strategic partnership agreement has been reached with Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems, covering many areas of high technology, including aviation security, wireless communications and artificial intelligence. Working with Alex to develop new monitoring systems has provided staff with the opportunity to apply research into computer networking and artificial intelligence to real products. It has also enabled them to develop ideas in 'fuzzy logic' relevant to aviation security. A new area of teaching has been developed through the work, exploiting the success of video processing techniques utilised within the project.

Benefits to the Company

  • Enhanced capabilities in product design and testing
  • Better understanding of computer networking, facilitating easier-to-use products
  • HIDL proven, with potential in many new products
  • Aviation security identified as an area for future business growth, reflecting the increasing concern within the industry
  • Greater ability to utilise computers to identify and solve data-link problems
  • Potential to expand product range and enter new markets, predicted to increase annual sales by over £500,000

Benefits to the University

  • Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems' laboratories made available for academics' research work
  • Strategic partnership agreement in place, strengthening mutual relationship with successful bid for further collaborative research
  • Opportunity to develop artificial intelligence for aviation security and further signal processing concepts

Benefits to the Associate

  • Significantly enhanced technical, project management and presentation skills
  • Completed an NVQ Level Four in Management
  • Progressed towards PhD and Chartered Engineer status
  • Accepted a position with Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems as Senior Systems Engineer

Company Feedback

“The appointment of Alex Tarter, who had completed a Master’s degree in Information Systems Engineering, proved to be an excellent decision. As KTP Associate he proved enthusiastic, personable, skilled and hardworking, with his commitment and drive proving instrumental in the project's success. The KTP has added a valuable dimension to our data-link products and raised Ultra's profile at conferences, standards committees, and with published journals. It also resulted in a strategic partnership between Lancaster University and Ultra Electronics." Andrew Cambridge, Chief Scientist, Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems.

Researcher Feedback

“The project was beneficial to both the industrial and academic partners, and provided a unique opportunity for developing new skills and products in the company, and exposing Lancaster University researchers to real life industrial problems.” Professor Garik Markarian, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University.

KTP Associate Feedback

Alex gained considerable design experience, built on his project management skills, and extended his technical knowledge, in particular of communication systems and computer networking. He welcomed opportunities to attend exhibitions and conferences, through which he made useful contacts and showed professionalism in representing the company.

Alex joined a European Aviation Standards working group, EUROCAE WG-72, which was established to develop guidelines to address security concerns for aeronautical systems, which was also directly applicable to his project work.

Alex completed the KTP, achieved his PhD and is now a Technical Director at Ultra. He also became a NATO Civil Expert for Cyber Security and the HIDL continues to sell with full motion video capabilities due to the work done in the KTP view brochure.