Unmanned Systems Technology 027 l Hummingbird XRP l Gimbals l UAVs insight l AUVSI report part 2 l O’Neill Power Systems NorEaster l Kratos Defense ATMA l Performance Monitoring l Kongsberg Maritime Sounder

23 aircraft, but Zbikowski turned that on its head in what Colosimo describes as a light bulb moment for him. “If you start out to make aero-servo elasticity work in the design of the vehicle, you might not simply avoid creating problems but could also capitalise on it in ways analogous to what flying creatures do. And it’s not limited to low-speed flight or low-mass aircraft,” he says. Team Tempest The project with which Colosimo is most closely involved these days is Tempest, the future fighter intended to replace the Typhoon when it is retired from RAF service in 2040. The main goals at this stage, he says, are to develop the intellectual property, skills and technologies required for a new generation of combat aircraft. An optionally unmanned version of the aircraft is a possibility. “Getting the command and control right between a manned aircraft, which may be commanding what is a semi-autonomous craft, is extremely important,” he says. “Any decisions involving lethal effects are the preserve of humans, but routing, detecting and avoiding threats, gathering imagery and sending it back for analysis and so on, the machine can do that. “We’re working at the very edge of technology, trying to predict what will be possible in 10, 20, 30 years’ time and how we can plan for that. That’s as difficult – and as exciting – as it gets. Our philosophy is to fail fast, learn and develop.” Since its existence was announced at Farnborough 2018, the outline case for the Tempest programme has been approved by the government, and UK industry, and the RAF has made major strides in developing enabling technologies; discussions with potential international partners are ongoing as well. “We’re hoping for some big announcements and updates soon, so watch this space,” Colosimo says. He regards the qualification and certification of such complex systems as the industry’s greatest challenge, one exacerbated by machine learning exploiting neural networks. This is the ‘black box problem’ in which although engineers can monitor the inputs and outputs of a system, they don’t necessarily understand the process that turns one into the other. Such opaque complexity, he says, could increase the probability of failures such as undesirable emergent behaviours. “At some point in the future we may pass a complexity threshold that current mitigation methods can no longer cope with,” he explains. “We may all need to think more radically about how we design, develop, manufacture, test and deploy unmanned technologies.” Radical thinking is the essence of the job. “I don’t think I will ever get bored,” he says. Unmanned Systems Technology | August/September 2019 Professor Nick Colosimo is technology strategy executive, principal technologist, global engineering fellow at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire. His education began at Larches Country Primary School and continued at Ashton-on-Ribble High School in Preston, north-west England. He joined BAE Systems in 1990 as an apprentice, and continued his education part-time at institutions including the Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan universities. Over about 11 years he studied mechanical and production engineering, mechatronics, applied physics and electronics, computing and avionics. In his current role, he looks after technology strategy and planning, which has involved setting up and mobilising a number of strategic technology themes and their associated road maps, including AI and autonomous systems, space, near space and so on. He is also principal technologist responsible for disruptive technologies, which combines his role as a futurist with leadership of technology proof-of-concept demonstrations. As a global engineering fellow he is called upon to address difficult engineering problems and to help promote engineering and company capabilities and values. He has held various positions within BAE Systems, including strategy & planning executive for future capabilities, principal technologist – disruptive technologies (2016-18), and executive manager, advanced systems & innovation (2009-16). Before that he had various engineering and specialist roles. Nick Colosimo