Displaying a deeper understanding

Published: 26 Jun 2017

David Brandin-Lain is business development (aviation) manager of spatial analytics technology company Esri UK, which supplies Geographic Information Systems to customers in the defence and civil sectors.

Tell us about your career so far

Before joining Esri UK in 2014 I enjoyed a 23-year career in military intelligence with the Royal Air Force. My last post was managing the RAF’s Air Intelligence Centre’s team of 50 analysts in support of aviation assets throughout UK defence. My background in military intelligence gave me hands-on experience of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and analysis, as I had crosstrained in both disciplines at the Royal School of Military Survey and the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre. I also led the geographic support team at the Defence Geographic Centre, which provides the foundation geographic information for the Services, including to the RAF’s No.1 Air Information Documentation Unit.

What have been the highlights?

The first was supporting the Tornado GR4 aircraft from 1993 to 2000 as squadron intelligence officer on 12(B) Sqn at RAF Lossiemouth and then station intelligence officer at RAF Bruggen in Germany. The Tornados provided reconnaissance, ground attack – including nuclear deterrent – and anti-shipping capabilities. The other highlight of my RAF career was managing the operational intelligence support groups in Kabul and Baghdad. Then, joining Esri UK, overseeing the development of both the Airspace Control Order (ACO) and 3D threat dome visualisation within Esri’s ArcGIS technology; these, combined with the power of ArcGIS software, are game-changers in GIS applications for air sector users, massively improving situational awareness to make faster, better decisions. Both were trialled in the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior 2016 exercise, the largest demonstration of autonomous vehicles and the first to be planned “in the cloud” using ArcGIS Online.

What is Esri?

Esri is the global leader in spatial analytics technology and our GIS software platform, ArcGIS, helps customers operate more efficiently through a better situational understanding and analysis of location-based information. Esri UK has the UK’s largest team of GIS professionals able to provide fully integrated GIS solutions, and we have been working with leading brands and a wide range of markets including government, defence, utilities and tech startups, for more than 20 years now.

What does your job involve?

I develop business for Esri UK’s GIS software and services in the air sector for defence and civil customers. Since joining I’ve been involved in defence projects delivering geospatial solutions for air command and control, electronic warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). On the civil side I’ve worked with NATS, the CAA and Eurocontrol.

What are the challenges?

Historically, the air sector has not been an extensive user of GIS, so the main challenge has been to interpret the benefits to the users and the air applications to the developers. For example, ISR can provide mission-critical data between services or coalition partners to be rapidly shared and exploited, and ArcGIS’s technology can underpin this.

Optimising the tasking of air assets to enhance mission effectiveness is another. The power of our software is that it allows multiple sources of data to be overlaid and visualised within a geographic and time-based context, to deliver up-to-the minute situational awareness and, crucially, be shared securely to inform decision-making. The CAA and NATS were recently briefed using ArcGIS technology on the 4D impact of the Unmanned Warrior exercise on UK airspace.

How does your previous experience help you with your current role?

Hugely. My knowledge of air force procedures to plan and conduct operations is vital to informing Esri in developing its applications. Understanding how ArcGIS can support air force operations and translating that into language the RAF understands is also essential to explaining how GIS provides the edge in any military operation.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I work with a diverse set of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people, and I greatly enjoy meeting with customers.

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