John Tranquilli’s passion for solving complex signal processing problems was sparked in his very first engineering course in college. Now, as an advanced research and development lead at BAE Systems, his dream of designing systems that use cutting-edge algorithms to exploit electromagnetic and communications signals has become a reality.
John’s job entails ensuring the success of program technologies through management and technical leadership. He’s currently focused on two main programs that share a common goal: to develop adaptive electronic systems that can respond to new, dynamic, and changing environments.
Once these technologies — used for radar and wireless communications — are fully developed, they will enable electronic warfare and communications systems to recognize and combat new and difficult threats. Why is this important? Even today’s smartest systems are limited by simple approaches to dealing known threats. This means our military’s systems are susceptible to failure when faced with signals they’ve never anticipated or seen before. The adaptive systems John is working on will help solve that problem. They use new machine-learning algorithms and non-linear signal processing techniques to rapidly detect threats and synthesize, on the spot, the optimal strategy to operate in any signal environment.
Needless to say, John’s work will help take existing systems up a notch. But he’s not in this alone. John works with a diverse group of technical experts all working toward a common goal. “They are the experts in various technical areas, but you have to have a well-rounded background to get those disciplines to work together,” said John.
So what is the best part of John’s job? Demonstrating prototypes, like the adaptive systems he is currently working on, to solve customers’ problems. “It’s exciting to seek out the customer, work with them to figure out a resolution to the critical problems they’re dealing with, and then invite them in to see what you’ve done,” said John. “The great part is showing them a capability that’s never existed before.”
Though he does look forward to the final demonstrations at the end of programs, John will be celebrating the small victories in the meantime. “When you break down these large projects into smaller components, it means that there’s room for a lot of little victories, which helps keep his team motivated as they work towards and achieve the project’s end goal.”