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Autonomous future developments and career insight from industry experts.
The Autonomous Vehicle Dynamics and Control MSc is reviewed annually by a panel of industry experts. Their advice and guidance ensures that you graduate from Cranfield University with the appropriate knowledge and skills to differentiate yourself in today’s competitive market. Vicky Mason, Aerospace Marketing Manager conducted interviews with three of the panel members to gain their insight on future industry developments, plus their insight into careers in this exciting sector.
Trevor Woolven, Technical Lead for UAS & ISTAR Integration and Design Authority for Future UAS, C4ISR and Autonomy, Thales
Professor Nick Colosimo, Technology Strategy Executive, Principal Technologist, Global Engineering Fellow, BAE Systems.
What are future technologies and applications in this sector?
One of the most exciting sectors to work in is the connected autonomous vehicles in the three senses; so connected – connectivity between all the devices in terms of V to X, vehicle to anything technologies. Then autonomous – that is mainly what we do here in this masters. Then also the vehicle side of things – more of the simulation of dynamics and how they work.
Applications are in all kinds of unmanned systems, particularly autonomous systems that can work outside the sphere of human control, whilst still remembering that they’ve got to present the information that they gather and process back to the human decision makers. The technologies are based on data analytics but the use of AI and various emerging AI techniques.
There are many new and emerging technologies which are set to have a pretty profound impact in aerospace and defence. They include things like artificial intelligence and autonomy which is associated with that, quantum technologies, electrification as well which we are seeing in automotive as well as moving into aerospace. Really there’s actually quite a long list and the applications really involve improving the performance of vehicles, improving the capabilities but also many of which are dual use as well so they actually spin off into other sectors as well, such as automotive.
What skills are employers seeking from graduates?
I think that the most important skill would be the cross-functional capabilities of that person. Nowadays the role specs change so fast and you need to adapt to so many challenges. Cross-functional capability is what we look for.
Immediately we are looking for knowledge of AI and various AI techniques, and how they can be developed and made more robust, more resilient. We are also looking at data scientists to help us perform data analytics to extract the value from the data that we collect and then present it to the human operators.
We are always looking for a variety of skills, but I think the most important factors relate to being flexible, being adaptable, being willing and able to learn because you never stop learning. Even though you’ve graduated you still have much still to learn and there is much that we can teach, so hopefully by having flexibly and adaptability you can tailor your capabilities to a range of challenges that we have, and we have such a range of challenges within our organisation that there’s something for everyone.
What are typical job roles for recent graduates?
I would say Software Engineer, these kind of roles or Hardware Engineer – really generic. It is good when you are given a generic role or a generic name because you then you can kind of shape your future. If you were given a concrete name or a precise name maybe you would be more limited in your jobs you are doing.
Most entry-level jobs will be looking at some form of systems engineering. We like to have people who can do a bit of software, who understand a bit about hardware, and the integration of the two together, but the systems engineering covers quite a wide sphere so we’ll be looking for skills covering software integration, user design, applications of AI, how to make data science work but start off looking for systems engineering roles.
Systems engineering is a key part of what it is that we do. We integrate systems, we take technologies, we mature them, we integrate them in order to produce very, very capable and very complex products and so systems engineering is really a key area for us but ultimately there are a variety of different career paths open to new engineers.
What makes a Cranfield graduate valuable to an organisation?
I was a graduate here – you are put under pressure in some moments of your master’s and that is really good because you know how to deal with this pressure, you are more prepared to the work environment.
Cranfield graduates tend to have a very practical outlook on life so they’re about understanding the technologies and then how to apply them in the real world.
I think Cranfield University is quite different from many universities, in the sense that it is much more applied, much closer to industry than many. As a result of that, we find that Cranfield graduates are already well equipped and well aware of the needs of industry and how industry operates, largely because we’ve got a range of industry involved capabilities here on campus, we have a range of academics that spend time with us in industry. Likewise some of the academics are ex-industry and so there is a really good mix of academia and industry and that really bodes well for the future.
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