Stepping into the world of unmanned air vehicles was something Bob never imagined he’d be doing. Bob explains “It’s different. It’s an exciting journey working closely with the engineers to make sure that the environment in the control station is as natural for a pilot and crew as the cockpit is today. We are constantly learning how to improve and make the role as intuitive and informed as possible.”
During his time as an unmanned project pilot Bob has flown Mantis and Herti. He is currently working with the Taranis team to prepare for first flight. Asking Bob his views about how the company is positioned to compete in the fast paced UAV market he said:
“To get to that perfect world of autonomy takes time. The vehicle itself is less important, it’s about proving the systems. I think there has been a stepped change in our thinking during this past year. Everyone is recognising the importance of the complete system – not just the platform that happens to hold it all together and get it to where it needs to be.
One of the biggest steps we’ve made recently, that has really got us noticed as a serious player in the market is through the ASTRAEA programme. That’s about flying the Jetstream aircraft through a series of trials which get us closer to achieving the safe flight of UAV’s in UK airspace.”
Bob’s full title is ‘Large aircraft and Taranis Project Pilot’ which just about captures how wide ranging a role he has. Joining the company in 2000 Bob spent a large part of his time on the Nimrod MRA4 programme. Bob is also called upon to support the Corporate Air Travel Team taking passengers to Farnborough and Munich and in more recent years he has stepped out from the cockpit and into a ground control station to pilot some of our unmanned air vehicles. He also frequently flies the Jetstream aircraft which behaves like an unmanned air vehicle. Bob controls the take-off and landing manually and in-between that the technologies on board the aircraft do the thinking, with Bob ready to take over the controls at any second if necessary.
What is clear from meeting Bob is that he is a team player. A large part of that is down to the fact that he is a large aircraft pilot. Naturally you have to trust and rely upon the rest of the crew, both in the aircraft and on the ground. Bigger aircraft means bigger crews to support. Bob is also very modest. He jokes that he has never had the necessary skills to be a fast jet pilot.
A varied career spanning many aircraft and programmes. Suffice to say, with all that variation Bob doesn’t struggle to get out of bed in a morning. His struggle starts when he has to choose what to wear to work that day!