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From F1 to Flylogix, our Engineering Director Richard Nicholson likes a fast-moving environment.

By Sian Discombe Wells

As we enter 2022 looking to significantly grow our engineering team, Flylogix Engineering Director, Richard Nicholson, talks about his attitude to engineering, his career to date and why talented, pioneering engineers will be excited by the opportunities at scale-up business, Flylogix

Richard joined Flylogix from McLaren in April 2020, having spent over 20 years with the giants of Formula 1 motor-racing, most recently providing technical leadership on multi-disciplinary software, design and simulation engineering.

“Working at a big, established organisation such as McLaren means there’s always a team of experienced engineers with technical expertise in each specific area,” says Richard. “That’s not yet the case at a scale-up like Flylogix, but it means you’re challenged to keep learning and sharing new skills, in new areas. Everyone in our engineering team gets to work with a range of different technologies, so the output of every single person is critical to the overall success.”

“There isn’t one single ingredient that makes working at Flylogix special – it’s the blend of clear business goals, working on problems with a low environmental impact, working with motivated and supportive teams and on difficult technical challenges.”

Multiple disciplines, and a pioneering attitude.

“From an engineering perspective it’s great to work on something that straddles multiple disciplines – software, communications, electronic, mechanical and aerodynamic engineering issues.”

“For example, Skyspace is the platform we’ve developed for piloting unmanned aircraft anywhere in the world.”

“This includes a web application for mission monitoring and sending commands, management of the data in the cloud and the systems running on the plane to send and receive data and make sure the aircraft safely gets to where it needs to.”

“Over the next couple of years we’ll be building Skyspace into a hub for all of our mission data. To achieve that we’ll need to respond to changing regulations, new applications and increasing volumes of data – and we’ll need people on our team who have a passion for problem-solving, and share our determination to always go further.”

A passion for problem-solving.

Richard achieved a first-class degree in engineering from the University of Cambridge. Within three years of graduating he started work at McLaren as a vehicle dynamics engineer and then as a software development team leader, where he oversaw the development of a new wind-tunnel control system.

“There were two jobs when I was interviewed. One was doing actual engineering on the car during race weekends. The other was developing a simulation model of the car. I didn’t consider until quite a while afterwards that the majority of people would have immediately opted for the job that involved travelling with the team. But for me, I’m always more interested in the fundamentals of understanding how things work.”

“A lot of my fellow engineering students went off into areas such as banking and management consultancy, but I’ve always been fully motivated by engineering and the physics of why and how things work, to the extent that I’m often more interested in the process of understanding that than necessarily putting it back together!”

“At McLaren all the engineering work is optimised for developing a race car as efficiently as possible. We would build a simulation model of any new system before making it for real which helped us to get the design right first time. There’s something special about seeing equations turning into real physical things.”

Make tangible operational improvements.

“What we’re doing at Flylogix is not dissimilar, and as an engineer, it’s super-interesting to work with a combination of challenging engineering technologies – controlling what the aircraft is doing through the auto-pilot; the communications software to reliably get data out of an aircraft that is flying in the harshest of conditions; putting that data to work to make tangible operational improvements.”

“At Flylogix, we’ve brought together AI, satellite communication and low-cost electronics to develop a new generation of smaller, more efficient, unmanned aircraft. Now we’re using these to transform remote operations. It’s especially satisfying because we’re able to do this whilst reducing carbon emissions, improving safety and delivering commercially-effective solutions.”

Flylogix is hiring. We have a number of technically challenging roles across the company. We are looking for engineers with experience in Control Engineering, Communications Systems, Web Application Development and Cloud Infrastructure. 

The successful completion in 2021 of a pioneering project in partnership with NZTC and SeekOps to measure methane emissions in the North Sea using Flylogix unmanned aerial vehicles means that our business is set for rapid growth. We are committed to using unmanned aviation to make the world a better place.

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