THE LOLA GROUP: FROM THE GRID TO THEATRE
By Sven Hughes
It is a given that technological advances in the defence sector accelerate during times of conflict. And this is certainly borne out as a consequence of the specific demands of Iraq, Afghanistan and other less-reported areas of kinetic activity. New Areas of Operation demand new, distinct, technological solutions. Necessity is the mother of invention and has been since the earliest, most crude, types of conflict.
However, the current surge of defence technology advancement is being affected like never before by an increasingly important driver: the court of public opinion. Within our 24-hour news environment, complete with embedded journalists and uploaded User Generated Content on the likes of Youtube, defence technology is constantly under review, not only by the defence industry itself, but also by the viewing public.
Collateral damage is no longer tolerated. Misplaced ordnance and any consequent civilian casualties will be immediately amplified by the enemy using social media platforms (as well as by an increasingly media savvy ‘anti’ lobby at home). In the face of such a media onslaught, today’s militaries are reliant on pinpoint defence technologies that deliver the Commander’s intent, with the minimum risk of unintended consequence. This is the age of drones and semi-autonomous surveillance systems. The UAV sector, is flourishing like never before.
One particular British company is benefiting significantly from this changing face of warfare. The Lola Group, best known for its significant motor racing pedigree, is a composites manufacture now at the forefront of the drone and UAV sector. In its guise as a racing car manufacturer, Lola has designed and built winning cars for a wide range of global manufacturers including Ford and Aston Martin. At the recent Le Mans 2011, Lola had no fewer than three cars in the top ten.
However, in addition to Lola’s impeccable racing record, the company has also been broadening its new technology and testing offering to other sectors, including defence, aerospace and renewables – resulting in a 100% increase in turnover this year.
Lola’s Managing Director Robin Brundle is quite sure that the company’s racing experience gives Lola a competitive advantage within the defence industry:
“The race track is a demanding environment. Cutting-edge technology, meticulous specifications and tight timeframes. We are use to the pressure and know how to deliver on time. As a result, we’ve never been busier.”
Lola is going from strength to strength in the defence industry with a range of projects already under its belt. Lola’s end-to-end technical capability has delivered the tooling design, airframe manufacturing and assembly for the Mantis (Telemos) and the WK450 UAV’s. Lola has also recent involvement and experience with a UCAV programme.
The Lola Group is currently working on various classified orders through its partners for the Pentagon and MoD as well as additional private sector clients including BAE Systems and Thales UK.
“The growth of the UAV sector has certainly been of real benefit to our business” explains Robin Brundle, “Our clients need strong, lightweight composite solutions that can deliver to their challenging operational needs. That is why they choose Lola products. ‘If you want the edge, you want Lola’, that seems to be what our customers are saying. We’re very proud of this reputation – and of course we’re working especially hard to maintain it.”
Reaction time is also more important than ever before as a defence industry supplier. With the advent of global terrorism, opportune targets disappear as quickly as they first presented themselves. Military forces must be fast and flexible… and so must their suppliers. Again, Robin Brundle believes that this is where The Lola Group has a significant advantage over its competitors:
“We are used to the demands of the racetrack. We meet even