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IET Prize boosts engineering research

Professor Hugh Griffiths discusses award impact
IET Prize boosts engineering research

Prof Hugh Griffiths

Each year the IET announces the winner of the IET A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize, made possible by a Trust Fund bequeathed by late member Dr Frank Harvey. The prize money is given to an individual researcher to further scientific research in the fields of medical, microwave, radar or laser engineering – ultimately to benefit society.

Professor Hugh Griffiths FREng FIET, THALES/Royal Academy Chair of RF Sensors at University College London, was awarded the Prize then worth £300,000 by the Search and Selection Committee in 2012. He explains how he still feels the impact of the award today.

“The prize money has helped to fund our research into bistatic radar – which is where the radar transmitter and receiver are in different locations. This is in contrast to the usual radar configuration where the transmitter and receiver are co-located and usually use a single antenna,” Hugh says.

“Our objective has been to make measurements under controlled conditions of targets, and clutter, which refers to reflections from land or sea surfaces that often mask the echoes from targets.”

Hugh indicates that the work provides some of the fundamental knowledge for designing and building radars of the future: “Radars are unlikely to be the large single-platform ones that we are used to. Instead they are likely to be networks of individual platforms.”

The research will also inform the development of passive radars, which don’t have their own dedicated transmitter, but make use of existing transmissions such as broadcast or communications signals. As the electromagnetic spectrum becomes more congested and users pay a higher price for a part of it, passive radars are becoming ‘more and more attractive’ says Hugh.

In addition to funding the research, the Prize has brought it some valuable publicity and exposure.

“The publicity has attracted a number of high-profile collaborators, as well as outstanding post-doctoral researchers and PhD students - so we’ve built quite a team,” Hugh says. “I’ve been asked to give keynote addresses at conferences all over the world and we’ve published the work widely, so the international radar community has been able to see what we are doing.”

In the spotlight, Hugh and his team have attracted further funding and awards – which continues to the present day.

“I’ve just heard that I am to be awarded the IEEE Picard Medal for 2017,” says Hugh. “And I’m sure I would not have achieved this without the support of the A F Harvey Prize.”

Since winning the Prize, one of the more unusual aspects of Hugh’s work has been his study of the history of bistatic radar.  

“The real stimulus came when I was co-writing the Advances in Bistatic Radar book and I started to find out more about the German Klein Heidelberg bistatic radar from World War Two,” he says.  

“A friend found some documents for me on this at the National Archives at Kew, and he has been a constant source of material and inspiration ever since.”

Research team adjusting X-band transmitter and antennas prior to sea clutter measurements

Research team adjusting X-band transmitter and antennas prior to sea clutter measurements

This article was originally published in the IET's Member News April 2017. Thank you to the IET for allowing this reproduction.