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The answer is blowing in the wind….*

By admin - Last updated: Friday, October 28, 2011

Strangely enough, running an innovative product development company isn’t all about developing innovative products.  But if you employ the kind of people we do….the type capable of really making a difference to the way next generation products are developed, then a by-product is that they rarely stop thinking about alternative ways of taking technology and showing how it can make a difference in a new or emerging market.

In Alan’s last blog, he talked about how businesses need to not only make technology breakthroughs, but continuously improve technologies and adapt them to market opportunities. Having described 30 years worth of technology development, he left us hanging with the promise of the best was yet to come.  Well, a couple of days ago, we announced it in the form of our latest spin-out company: Aveillant.

For those of you who read my blog entitled ‘Wind farms on a collision course’, you’ll know that wind farms cause a major headache for air traffic controllers – both civil and military – in so much as they are unable to distinguish between which is which when the aircraft passes overhead, creating areas of uncertainty that is unacceptable to both aviation safety and national security.  The problem is so large that in the UK alone, according to Renewable UK, 66% of all wind farm applications, equating to 6.5 gigawatts of electricity, are being delayed due to this problem.  Put another way, that’s the equivalent to around 2300 turbines, which could otherwise be making a significant difference to helping us reach our renewable energy target.

Aveillant addresses this concern through the clever use of holographic radar which is able to ‘separate’ even small aircraft from the wind farms, and has been designed to work with existing primary radar systems to ‘fill in the gaps’ in a very cost effective way.  As well as support from Cambridge Consultants, the new company has also received funding from VC firm DFJ Esprit and from the U.K. wind industry’s funding body, the Aviation Investment Fund.  That said, with a solution to a global problem firmly in its sights, a second round of funding is expected next year.

In just a few days, the news of Aveillant has gone global getting coverage on major consumer sites such as CNET (worth a read) through to leading entrepreneur magazine, Fast Company (also worth a read), and a hundred others.

Aveillant has two founder members, one of which – Dr Gordon Oswald – who also played a key role in the development of holographic radar and was involved in the early measurement of sea ice thickness in the Arctic.  Having spent some time on the ice, I thought it might be interesting to see what he remembers from the seminal project to work out the possibility of placing oil rigs in his hostile territory some 30 years ago.  His one memory… “Polar Bears are big.  Very big!”.    Funny how a technology first created to solve an oil industry issue, has now come full circle to help the world get off its dependency on fossil fuels.

* and for the music aficionados, this song title was – ironically – sung by Peter, Paul and Mary who were also famous for singing ‘Leaving on a jet plane’.  Well, now I guess they can!




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