Graduate Profile

Andy Lewis, BSc 2001, MSc 2002, PhD 2006

Engineer working on remote sensing of wind velocities

In February 2013 I joined ZephIR as the Customer Service Engineer. ZephIRs use laser radar (lidar) to record wind speed. I am shown above with two of our units being tested near the Malvern Hills. The ZephIR systems operate as remote, unattended sensors measuring wind speed, primarily for resource assessment. We do have a number of research-based clients who use the units for more advanced measurements (e.g. helicopter backwash) which is both very interesting and something we are keen to support to broaden the application of the product. ZephIR was actually a spin-out of QinetiQ and is ten years old this year. The system is a homodyne CW system utilising a 1565nm laser/fibre laser amplifier. We have clients all over the world using the systems on land, mounted on turbines themselves and also out at sea. My role is to manage every unit deployed in the field, liaise with our customers and ensure their units are functional and of course, keep them happy! If there are any issues, I manage the repair of the units and minimise the downtime as deployments usually last in excess of 1 year, so missing data is bad! I also project manage internal engineering projects to enhance the performance of the units in addition to developing new capabilities for the systems. We’re located just outside Malvern/Ledbury on Castlemorton Common which is a great place to work just below the Malvern Hills.

Between completing my PhD at St Andrews and joining ZephIR I had a number of other jobs in the high-technology sector.

Following my PhD I began working in QinetiQ (Feb 2006) within Spectrum Solutions Military Radar group. Most of my work initially was concerned with electromagnetic assessment of potential wind farms. Customers, usually energy companies, would be planning to build a wind farm, but as you can imagine, turbines can play havoc with radar systems (both cw and pulsed) as they are large metal moving objects. Local airports/CAA/NATS would object and we would be requested to act as an independent third party to quantitatively and qualitatively determine the likely impact of such turbines on any local radar system, taking into account the radar system specs, local terrain and commercial flight paths.

In 2008 I progressed into Applied Technologies within QinetiQ and became a Project Manager for MEMS devices and applications of the technology. The group had its own fabrication facility based on 7” wafer CMOS technology and built novel accelerometers, gyros and pressure sensors. Applications included passive monitoring of large bearings, machines etc. allowing forecasting of any failures to allow for component swaps and downtime (many large bearing systems can cost millions of pounds). Essentially, the vibrations would have a consistent signature during normal operation so any change in that signature could be cause for concern.

Following that (Sept 2009) I moved into the Radar/Software groups and managed projects delivering more military-based projects (mostly for MoD) building products to help theatre-based troops do their job. Our work was sensor-based allowing troops to detect various flavours of threat and take cover to avoid damage or pinpoint possible targets. I was also a software project manager managing teams writing anything from web-based tools to firmware and processing software to go in the field-based products we developed. Testing kit on Salisbury Plain was definitely a highlight of the work there!

I left QinetiQ in April 2011 and went on to join a small consultancy called Techmodal based in Bristol as a Senior Business Consultant. We specialised in cost engineering, cost forecasting and business consultancy and wrote a lot of tools in MS Excel to assist the MoD in business decisions on large projects (e.g. Navy Ship refits, future jet fighter acquisitions etc.).