BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold visited Chess Dynamics at its Horsham Headquarters to meet CEO Graham Beall a candidate for BATTLESPACE Businessman Of The Year 2018.
“What took you into the engineering business?” The Editor asked.
“Since a very young age I have been fascinated by engineering. As a child I was always taking things apart which often resulted in the fuses at home blowing! As my father was an engineer he turned a blind eye to my antics. Engineering is in my blood, my grandfather worked on the Rangoon to Calcutta railroad and had to walk the length of the railroad to escape the Japanese invasion on 1941.” Graham Bell said.
“When did you form Chess Dynamics?”
“After a career at Philips making televisions and then at Radamec, I used my redundancy money (from Radamec) to form Chess Dynamics on May 13th 1993 with a partner, Andrew Parker who is still a director of the Company. We worked from my lounge and garage and specialised in manufacturing laser fabrication machines. When the Chinese began to take over the semi-conductor market, we decided to move into mechanical engineering”
“What took you into the defence market?”
“Our first defence contract was in 1997 with Racal in Wells for a Headquarters Terminal (HQT) satellite receiver positioner. Since then we have developed a particular expertise in assemblies and systems for the electro-optic and surveillance market. Chess designs and manufactures precision stabilised and non-stabilised platforms, directors and positioners for electro-optics (thermal and daylight cameras), radar, communication equipment and special sensors which enables us to deliver a very broad range of security and surveillance systems. Chess Dynamics has been supplying equipment, sub-systems and a variety of surveillance systems to UK Defence prime contractors and, in certain cases for specialist projects direct to MoD since 2005.”
“Are you solely focused on defence?”
“No, we have a much broader product base. We use the technology from our defence products in the specialist, high-end security systems aimed at protecting critical national infrastructure, assets and high net-worth individuals.”
“The majority of Chess’s business has been derived from its naval systems. We see some re-balancing towards land systems as the Hawkeye family gains recognition and traction. Customers now recognise that Chess Dynamics is a small systems house and not just a product supplier. Equally an increasingly important part of Chess Dynamics Ltd’s business is ‘bespoke’ engineering; fulfilling customers’ unique requirements for one-off systems that require extremely accurate director heads, radar turntables or long-range optics.”
“We now have three Divisions, Naval (50%), Land (35%) and Special Systems (15%) that incorporates both the Security Systems and Bespoke Systems, the specialist engineering aspect of the business.”
“We pride ourselves on our ability to design and manufacture an extensive range of gyro stabilised and un-stabilised electro-optical (EO) tracking and surveillance platforms for military land and naval applications. We have extensive experience and technical expertise in electric motors, covering DC (brushed and brushless), along with AC (single and 3 phase) motors and associated servo and inverter control solutions; all of which are incorporated in our products and solutions. On these platforms we can mount a range of thermal imagers, TV cameras and laser range finders; provide the requisite controls (hand controllers, joysticks and or play station controls) and displays (ruggedized or non-ruggedized); combined with software defined controls enabling auto-track, slew-to-cue, radar-cue and remote sensor-cue for passive target detection, recognition and identification. The more complex EO systems are integrated and used as part of complete fire-control or surveillance systems on a variety of ships or vehicles.”
“Chess is now the only independent UK supplier of electro-optical platforms, communication and radar platforms. We have a specialist Software Department developing open architecture systems for all our products. We also have an extensive machine shop which we are expanding to include additive manufacturing. The products are usually sub-systems; part of a larger system, for example our roll and pitch stabilised platform for a naval surveillance radar. We have supplied such systems to the US and Spain amongst others.”
“How has the Company grown?”
“We started with six people and we now employ over one hundred and twenty people based at three sites; Plymouth, our naval systems of excellence, Wokingham where our sister company, Vison4ce is based and Horsham, where we have four facilities covering support, engineering, design and our machine shop. Finally, there is our US HQ in Denver, Colorado, where our partner LiteEye is based. In 2017 Chess Dynamics achieved 41st place on the annual Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100 league table ranking Britain’s 100 small and medium sized private companies with the fastest growing international sales. This award reflected the positive export growth and geographic expansion of Chess over the past year. Naturally, we look forward to continuing to grow and supply our products and systems to our current and future customer base across the globe. We supply over 12 countries and over 80% of our turnover is exported to 40 different customers. We enjoy a very close working relationship with the Department of International Trade, Defence and Security Organisation (DIT-DSO) which helps us find and service new customers.”
“In 2013 we merged with Vison4ce and two years later purchased GE’s naval production facility in Plymouth. We also have the support of a major city Venture Capital Trust Beringea”
“Could you give us an idea of your major product lines?”
“We supply a number of assemblies and sub-assemblies to key customers such as Saab and have supplied equipment to a number of navies across the world including the Royal Navy for Type 23 frigates, the new QEC carriers and the new Type 26 frigates. We pride ourselves in forming partnerships and agreements to develop products. We have a strong partnership with MSI Defence supplying our Sea Eagle system.
“We formed the AUDS Consortium to develop our counter-UAV system after a visit to South Korea with Mark Radford of Blighter Surveillance Systems. The AUDS Team brings together three leading UK high-tech’ companies, each with a unique capability required to create an effective counter-UAV system. The Blighter A400 series air security radars are able to DETECT small UAVs in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day, flying and in all environments, both urban, rural and near to the horizon. The Chess Dynamics Hawkeye Deployable System (DS), featuring both a long range colour camera and the latest generation cooled or uncooled Thermal Imager (TI), along with Chess’ state-of-the-art video tracking technology, is able to ACQUIRE, TRACK and IDENTIFY the UAV and, combined with radar target information, classify the target. The operator is then able to make a timely and informed decision to use Enterprise Control Systems’ (ECS) smart RF inhibitors to interrupt selectively with the C2 channels on the UAV allowing the system to DISRUPT, and as required, DEFEAT the UAV’s mission. The smart RF inhibitors use directional antennas to achieve maximum effect with minimum collateral damage.”
Chess Dynamics Ltd has an extensive range of products for the land, sea and security markets.
Chess offers three families of EO/IR products. These are:
* the Naval Sea Eagle group of systems for maritime surveillance and fire control,
* the Military Hawkeye group of systems for land surveillance and fire control,
* the Sigma group of security systems for commercial/civil surveillance
These families use the same range director heads (pan and tilts) but have been adapted to meet specific tasks and environments. I illustrate this by comparing the Sea Eagle Fire Control Compact Turret (FCCT) and the Hawkeye Combat system (CS). These two systems use the same pan and tilt head, the same EO package and similar C2 software. Both systems are designed to meet the requirements of controlling direct fire weapons as well as providing local situational awareness; the former on small fast craft the latter on armoured vehicles.
Sea Eagle FCRO (Fire Control Radar Optical) is an advanced radar and electro-optical fire control system that provides precision long range tracking of surface and air targets and accurate gunfire control in surface (ASuW), air (AAW) and shore (NGS) engagements. The combination of Weibel’s advanced FMCW (Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave) Doppler radar with long-range IR, TV and laser sensors provides 24-hour all-weather operation.
Wide Area Surveillance is a situational awareness image processing application employed by Sea Eagle electro optical systems to aid situational awareness. When the system is employed in surveillance mode it can perform a number of azimuth scan patterns with automatic detection of ‘contacts’. Scan patterns range from continuous 360 degrees to defined arcs and these can be displayed as a continuous photographic strip.
HAWKEYE Vehicle Systems
The Hawkeye VS solutions are vehicle-mounted, independent surveillance systems. They can be integrated with ground surveillance radars and networked as part of a wider battle or security management system. In this configuration, Hawkeye’s cameras and director are mounted on a hydraulic/pneumatic mast. If ground surveillance radar is specified, this can be mounted together with the director on the mast or separately. Control is achieved through the use of ruggedized GRIP PCs with TCP/IP outputs, allowing for local and/or networked control.
AUDS (Anti-UAV Defence System)
AUDS (Anti-UAV Defence System) is a counter drone system that is designed to disrupt and neutralise unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) engaged in hostile airborne surveillance and potentially malicious activity. The AUDS system combines electronic-scanned array radar for target detection, electro-optical (EO) tracking/classification and directional RF inhibition defeat capability.
AUDS is a smart-sensor and effector package capable of remotely detecting small UAVs and then tracking and classifying them before providing the option to disrupt their activity. The system may be used in all environments and all weather to prevent UAVs being used in terrorist attacks, espionage or other malicious activities against sites with critical infrastructure.
“AUDS is the only fully combat proven counter drone/UAS system in continuous military operations having over 700 confirmed kills.” Graham Beall said.
“AUDS represents a shining example of where small, agile and innovative companies like Chess Dynamics Ltd, Blighter Surveillance Systems and Enterprise Control Systems Ltd can deliver a technologically mature solution to an emerging threat. Where there are complementary technologies that come together to reach a mutually beneficial solution, then yes there should be vast opportunities for like-minded SMEs to work together.”
Chess and Supacat will have an AUDS systems mounted on a Supacat Coyote 6×6 vehicle at DVD this year.
Chess Dynamics offers Sigma LEO as part of their Security Systems for the protection of Critical Protection National Infrastructure. Sigma is based on a family of EO/IR sensors deployed for a variety of land based surveillance applications such as border security, coastal and port surveillance, force protection and mobile surveillance. The Sigma range follows the same modular approach as the Land & Naval systems, which allows for easy integration and servicing.
Chess incorporates maritime protection features such as stainless steel connectors and special sealing within Sigma LEO to ensure long term reliability in the marine environment. Chess has a long-standing pedigree in providing military level capabilities such a full military EMC and support for military vehicle power supplies in its Hawkeye and Sea Eagle products. Sigma LEO takes advantage of this pedigree for security based applications.
“What of the future?” The Editor asked.
“The secret of our growth has been our ability to react quickly and efficiently to customer’s requirements and to bring the product to market in the fastest time from prototype to production. The ability to bring a product to market is therefore much quicker, but the issue is not so much whether we can offer a better solution, more often than not we can, but whether or not the customer, particularly the procurement organisations of major armed forces and government departments have the appetite to deal direct with SMEs. The UK, unlike the US, does not have any statute, legal or moral obligation that makes a commitment to supporting SMES, only initiatives and policies. A degree of faith is required from both sides, for the SMEs to compromise to find a suitable working environment and for the customer to show faith and so avoid delays and benefit from the lower overheads characteristic of dealing with SMEs. Given our size and flexibility and ability to form strategic partnerships, we have the speed and flexibility to react quicker than larger organisations.”
Graham Beall CV
Married to Christine 33 years; 2 children
1976 – Thomas Moore School, Purley
1977 – Engineering Studies at Croydon College, achieved HND in General Engineering
1980-84 – Apprentice at Philips making TV sets
1984 – Joined Radamec as a designer. Designed first ever Sea Giraffe radar stabilizer for Saab
1990 – Set up own design business
May 13th 1993 – Chess established majoring in PC laser fabrication machines with Andrew Parker who is still a director of Chess. Supplied machines to Analog Devices, IBM, Texas Instruments. Established company in Singapore.
1997-98 – Built CMOS Imaging machines for VDL Vision in Edinburgh to manufacture C-MOS Imaging Camera machines for mobile phone companies such as Nokia.
1997 – First defence contract with Racal in Wells for HQT satellite receiver positioner.
1997 – Moved HQ to Horsham from a 16th Century barn in Dorking
2013 – Merged with Vison4ce
2015 – Acquired GE’s UK Naval Tracking Business