Plain sailing for Britain, with help from BAE

Posted on 1 Dec 2010 by The Manufacturer

Engineers from BAE Systems have given the British Sailing Team’s chances of an Olympic gold a boost by helping them predict the weather with software usually used for Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).

Using the technology, Skandia Team GBR can forecast detailed weather patterns up to six to eight hours ahead of racing, helping them to plot fastest and most competitive route during major sailing competitions

The special innovation, known as Project DRAKE, applies predictive mathematical modelling used currently in autonomous technologies to give touch-button access to data such as wind speed and wind direction.

The breakthrough is part of a five year, £1.5 million technology partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport, the nation’s high performance sports agency, which is providing UK athletes with the latest technology.

Peter Bentley, technical projects manager of Skandia Team GBR explains that as competition rules don’t allow the sailing team to have contact with the tesam on land, accurately predicting the weather in advance is of paramount importance.

“The DRAKE system is an invaluable tool in helping our athletes gain understanding of the conditions in Weymouth Bay,” he says. “BAE Systems has worked hard to understand our requirements and provide a system that exceeds our expectations. The underlying mathematical model is far more sophisticated and complex than we can ever have imagined but from what we have seen so far, provides amazing results.”

Owen Evans, manager of BAE Systems’ UK Sport partnership, adds: “The DRAKE approach provides British Sailing with a step change in capability and is one of a number of factors serving to maximise success in the 2012 competitions. The technologies were originally developed as part of a programme to create innovative command and control capabilities and apply them to a wide range of BAE Systems products including warships and Unmanned Air Vehicles.

“Key to the technology is its user-friendliness – not just in available knowledge but also the presentation. We knew we had to get the look and feel of the software just right. So a large amount of our time was spent collaborating with the team to design a friendly interface, which allows very clear communication of weather patterns.”

The British Olympic team sailors have topped the medal table at the last three Olympic Games, in 2000, 2004 and 2008.