As our Business Development Manager, Paul is often the face of aae technologies – talking to both existing and prospective clients about their needs and how we can meet them. Having only joined us in June 2021, he still feels like a newcomer, but his long experience in subsea technology – progressing from initial engineering roles into a flourishing career in client acquisition and sales – means he’s a familiar face to many in the industry.
With events, exhibitions and meetings starting to return to normal, Paul can’t wait to get out and about more often to meet people and share his enthusiasm for aae technologies’ equipment. We grabbed a few minutes out of his Monday morning schedule to learn about him and his role here.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies?
It’s a varied role in the sales department that involves looking at both new and current business in the acoustic positioning sector. With existing customers, it’s about developing and continuing the relationship – providing them with new information they might not have seen, getting them up to speed on everything we manufacture and sell, and looking at ways we can do more business with them.
Circumstances are still evolving, but it feels like my time is divided around 50-50 between new and existing customers. As I’ve only been here a few months and things are just starting to open up in terms of meetings and events after all the Covid-19 precautions, I still feel like the new boy!
What was your background before you came to aae?
I was at a competitor company in the subsea equipment sector for around 22 years and then moved to another firm that specialise in environmental monitoring sensors. From there, I left the industry and spent some time with a company that produces equipment to measure and improve air quality in working environments before deciding to make the move back into subsea positioning technology with aae technologies.
I was familiar with applied acoustics, always respected the work they’ve done and wanted to get back into the industry. I knew Gavin and Hollie, so I reached out and the rest is history!
So, you already had an interest in subsea equipment?
Yes, I’m quite interested in it in general. My first job out of college was a junior sales position with a company that sold electronic components, but within a year I went on to Thomson Marconi Sonar, which was local to me at the time, where I got to know all about subsea sonar and acoustic systems, mainly in a military or defence context.
From there, I joined Sonardyne as an electronics test engineer and worked my way up through production and manufacturing into a sales role. But my original qualification was a GNVQ (Advanced) in manufacturing.
So, I’ve seen all sides of the business, and this helps when I come to sell our products, as I understand where they came from, how they were designed and how they’re put together. It’s a little different now, as I haven’t done the whole journey with applied acoustics, but I had the established knowledge of a very similar product and the end result customers need.
How has your career progressed since joining aae?
It’s been going well so far! It’s a very enjoyable place to work. The people are great. Now we’re starting to get out into the world again with everything opening up after Covid, and I can think about customers to go and visit rather than Zoom calls or Teams meetings, everything feels very positive. I much prefer the face-to-face work. There are things that come out of face-to-face meetings that wouldn’t necessarily come out of a video call.
What’s been your biggest highlight?
Making a sale is always good! The recent Ocean Business exhibition event was really good too. It was great to be back at a physical event and getting myself around, because people know me from my previous roles and a lot of people knew I’d moved, but didn’t know exactly what I was doing, while others didn’t know at all. So that was definitely a highlight, getting to see everyone again and simply being at the whole event.
Because you haven’t seen someone in over a year and a half, while they might have posted a job change on social media, it’s only when you see them standing under a different sign or working with different people that you really twig that things have changed. It was great to make those personal connections again and catch up.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Getting to know people and products. Although I knew of the company and their systems from the past, you don’t actually really know them until you’re there and it’s a challenge to really get down to the nitty gritty and get to know all the people as well. Maybe not the most difficult challenge – and not unpleasant either – but still a challenge. You just need to get on and start talking to people, which is not a problem at all.
“In the long term, it’s all about looking at what else we can do for clients and to push innovation in the industry.”
What do you love most about your job?
The varied work – it’s never the same each morning! There’s never any tiresome routine tasks or meetings. Having varied work to deal with keeps things interesting, and interacting with different people about a wide variety of applications and projects.
I also obviously like getting out for face-to-face meetings, and I love travelling. That was another thing that made me want to get back into this industry. In the last month, we’ve been away to two exhibitions in London and Southampton, and before that we travelled to Aberdeen. I’ve got another exhibition coming up in Amsterdam and the spectrum of where I could go is anywhere really, as this is a world-wide industry.
Do you have a set process with clients?
There are a few stages. Often, an enquiry will come in and from there we’d need to qualify that enquiry to make sure the equipment we suggest in our quotation is suitable for their requirements.
So, they may say they need to position an ROV accurately to within 15 metres. This is fine, but there’s still a lot of information missing from that, so we need to go back to them and ask a few more questions about things like water depth, how deep their ROV will go and more. Without that, we won’t know what system to quote or beacons to quote, either. For example, we wouldn’t want to supply beacons that are only rated to 500 metres when the depth could be much more.
Every project is different. Because our systems are accurate to a slant range, you’re looking at water depth straight down, then the working distances horizontally from there, and so the actual necessary range that the signal has to travel is the length of the diagonal hypotenuse of that triangle. We work on a percentage of that slant range accuracy, but this can change all the time.
In the end, it’s all about just speaking to customers, finding out as much information as possible about their project, taking it all in and providing the best equipment for the job. We very rarely get all the necessary information sent over straight away, there’s always something we need to go back and ask about. Which is fine, as it opens up the communications and we can do a better job.
We can do specials and one-offs for clients, and sometimes I’ll be going to the engineers to see what’s possible on a particular job. If they need something our specification doesn’t quite meet, then it can be an opportunity to enhance something we already have – maybe with software or an adjustment to the hardware. We are an engineering company and one of the plus points in dealing with us is the way we can find solutions.
Would you say customer care is a key part of what you do?
Massively. The customer could be onboard a vessel that might cost anything from $100,000 to $500,000 per day to run. So, if your system is causing downtime, that has a big impact on the customer. The team really needs to be at the top of their game in terms of how they perform in our customer relationships, but it’s something they are very good at, we all are.
Engineers here will have a mobile number they’re available on any time of day or night in case customers need help, because customers could be calling from anywhere in the world. Three o’clock in the morning here could be ten in the morning somewhere else. It’s so important to be able to help them. I don’t deal with customer care myself, as I’m not an engineer, but we do have a dedicated team to handle it.
What are you excited about for the future?
Growing the business and continuing our success. Looking at ways we could change what we do in terms of the equipment and introducing new equipment. All of that kind of thing is exciting moving forwards. In the short term, it’s about making sales, but in the long term it’s all about looking at what else we can do for clients, what new equipment we can design, and to push innovation in the industry.
There’s a new piece of equipment we’re just putting out now actually, the Pyxis USBL system, and that’s exciting. You have to make sure you release a new system correctly – that it’s been thoroughly tested and any issues found and fixed, so it doesn’t fall over in the field. We’ve just launched Pyxis and should be getting those properly out of the door in the next couple of months. I’m looking forward to that!
Looking to upgrade your subsea equipment?
Check out our latest range of sensors, beacons, transponders, USBL systems, workstations and more…
As our Group Office Administrator, Pam gets to wear many hats and handle everything ‘officey’, as she says. However, this doesn’t really reflect the depth of experience she now has across the company, from liaising with the engineers for orders to dealing with agents and even pitching in with the sales team.
Also now handling freight logistics in tandem with our Logistics Manager James Eman, Pam’s days are varied, rewarding and sometimes unpredictable! She took time out from making sure the office was organised ahead of a well-earned break to talk about her role here at aae technologies.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies?
Very varied at the moment! When I first joined in 2008, I started as an assistant to the technical manager and covered the admin side of repairs. Since then, obviously, the company has grown in terms of output and people, and more recently I’ve moved more into freight and logistics, which is mainly what I do at the moment.
I enjoy it because every day is different, and you never know if you might get something challenging thrown at you. ‘Office Administrator’ is just what’s at the bottom of my emails, but I cover pretty much everything that goes on in the office. As I know all the jobs, I stand in when people are away or support while we’re waiting for new staff to start, as well as handling general admin. If needs be, I do it!
What originally brought you to joining the company?
Before aae, I spent eight years at Sanyo, the television manufacturer, working in the engineering department. I was creating service information and used to produce the manuals that went down to the service department with the parts list, and so on. So I had a background in technical information, which wasn’t a million miles away from what I started doing at aae.
In 2008, there were rumours Sanyo was going to close down (which eventually it did), and one or two engineers I used to work with came here. I heard aae were looking for somebody in the office, so I decided, rather than wait around, to get myself into the jobs market before it became flooded. I got the interview and the rest is history!
The whole oceanography and subsea equipment side was completely new to me – and I’m still not technical at all – but I have learned a lot and love all the testing and clever work we do here.
What’s been your biggest highlight?
This job is always satisfying, so it’s hard to say if there’s been one particular highlight. But on a personal level, as part of working more in logistics, I undertook more training and gained a Foundation Award in International Trade, which is a recognised qualification in the industry. It involved five different courses covering all the aspects of logistics – there’s a lot more to logistics than simply packaging something and sending it off. I never thought I’d go to college again and do anything like that after all these years!
What’s been your biggest challenge?
In terms of logistics, Brexit has been a big challenge. But on the whole, with any kind of challenge, the key thing is having other people in the office to bounce off. Everyone here will always have a way to solve an issue in-house, and it’s often just a matter of constantly asking questions and getting someone else’s opinion. Our logistics manager, James, has been great to have on hand.
Regular challenges are the nature of the business when you’re sending things to such a wide variety of locations, for different uses. We were saying we should put pins on a map of all the countries we’ve sent to, and see which ones we haven’t yet! Some locations are more challenging to get to than others, but we usually find a way to get our equipment where it needs to be.
What’s been the most remote place you’ve sent things to?
Recently, we sent an item directly to Bangladesh, which you might not call remote, but was quite challenging. We do also send equipment up to The Orkneys, which can be complicated logistically, as they’re all little islands on their own in the sea, so it has to go via the north Scottish coast and then out on ferries. There was another time when our technical manager had to fly out to Alaska to do some testing on equipment. The phone signal there wasn’t good!
A lot of the time we deal with agents internationally and send equipment to them before they send it on to the end-user, so we don’t often have to deal with any extremely remote places. On the other end of the scale, we sometimes meet vessels making a port of call locally in Great Yarmouth, and then it’s always a quick turn-around: “We’re in port, only here for 24 hours. We’ve got this piece of kit. Can you take it off? Can you get it back on?” We always do our best to make it work.
“I’m really excited about new people joining the team, with fresh thoughts and ideas.”
What do you love most about the job?
I like unexpected surprises. Day-to-day, you know what’s going out and you have a plan for dispatch, but you also don’t know what might get thrown into the mix. Overnight, something could have happened with an order, or a new order has come in that has to be turned around that day. All of a sudden, there are half a dozen things going on and you just have to deal with it. It’s never boring.
What do clients love most about what you do?
We’ve got a great technical support team behind us, and clients get all-around good customer service right from when they purchase equipment from us through to after-sales care. There is always somebody available on a mobile number 24-7 should a client need help, and engineers are on a rota to cover nighttime hours for people who might be calling from all around the world. You can’t really do better than support like that. Customer service is king.
Do you think that’s what makes aae technologies unique?
Yes, I think it does, and it counts for a lot. You could sell anything, but if you don’t provide the backup to go with it, then customers aren’t going to come back. We send engineers out with the kit when they buy it, to give customers training and show people how to use it, and we like to make sure our service is the best.
What are you excited about for the future?
We’ve got some new kit coming out, but I’m more excited about the new people that will be coming on board to join the team. We’ve got people who have been here for 20 plus years, and it’s great that we have that depth of experience, but we still need new people to come in with fresh thoughts and ideas. Hollie Moran has brought an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm – she’s so forward-thinking and has done wonders with our marketing.
The new products and new Pyxis’ INS + USBL system we’ve launched look fresh, modern and dynamic thanks to people like Hollie’s input, which customers notice. That’s the difference new ideas can make.
Looking to upgrade your subsea equipment?
Check out our latest range of sensors, beacons, transponders, USBL systems, workstations and more…
Originally joining aae technologies at 16 part-time while still studying at college, Ben’s love of electronics meant he quickly soaked up everything there is to know about our technology and how it can be used, modified and improved. Since coming on board full-time in 2011, he’s gained a huge amount of experience across every aspect of product manufacturing, development, maintenance and customer service, rising to become our Acoustic Positioning Product Coordinator.
Ben works directly with clients to tailor equipment to their specific requirements, as well as providing technical support through our modulus arm. We caught up with him ahead of another busy day of sourcing vital parts and finding new ways to meet clients’ needs.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies?
I’m the Product Line Coordinator, which means I’m in charge of our Acoustic Positioning product line from concept stage through to production, delivery and after-sales support. I also oversee the withdrawal of older products from the market as new products replace them, while also bearing in mind parts we’ll need for repairs and maintenance – both for legacy support and ensuring we have the new components for the new line.
What sparked your interest in subsea equipment and acoustic positioning?
I’ve always been interested in electronics and had a talent for it when I was at school, doing well at GCSE and A level. I also grew up with subsea equipment around all the time. My dad would bring home CSP units to soak-test them in the garage at weekends!
I used to help out here during school holidays, doing very basic assembly work and then slightly more advanced work while I was at sixth form. I wanted to go straight into work after leaving college, and applied for a few engineering positions, but when a permanent vacancy in production came up here at aae it felt natural for me to join the team.
How has your career progressed since joining aae technologies?
The first three years were spent in production, building acoustic positioning equipment, while studying for an HND in engineering one day a week. Then I moved over to repairs, as the servicing requirements increased with the rising level of sales. After another few years I moved to a more customer-orientated role providing after-market tech support and also gained another HND in business management in my own time.
During the last two or three years, I’ve worked with the design and development team for custom engineering projects. This could be modifications of existing equipment, housing of subsea sensors, or equipment we source to compliment our own. Last year, I moved into the role I’m in now – in charge of the whole process because I’ve worked in most of it!
With experience in production, servicing, design and support, I understand what we need to do internally, how the processes work and exactly what the customers want. I make sure the design engineering manager is aware of any problems and we address them through design.
What’s been your biggest highlight?
This is a tricky question, as we all work very much as a team, so I can’t think of one specific thing for me personally! Everything we do is team-related, from the company reaching its 30-year anniversary to achieving international business awards and successfully fulfilling some huge orders along the way.
There was one particular instance in 2014. We received a huge order, and at that time had one engineer building beacons, so I dived in, making batches of ten a week. We built and sold over 500 beacons that year, which was quite an achievement with a small number of staff. But it was just one of the things I’ve been a part of as a member of the team.
What’s been the biggest challenge from a customer?
One that I always talk about is when we had to convert a PAM 3510 tester – an on-deck test unit for beacons – for use in the Arctic. It needed to run at temperatures of around minus 10 degrees or more. Far, far colder than is usually specified for our equipment.
So, we had to put heaters into the PAM, but because it’s within an enclosed case you have the issue of some components getting too hot. To get it so that the elements heat the instrument up, but not to a point of failure, with the heat evenly distributed within the constraints of the existing design, and for everything to operate at a colder temperature, was a tough challenge.
Obviously, the Arctic is a very isolated place, so if it goes wrong, that’s it. You can’t just take it back to the shop. We did a lot of testing to make sure it worked, using a combination of heat mats, temperature probes and fans, so that if anything got too hot the probes would shut the heaters down. Don’t forget, the heaters also had to warm the equipment up enough to turn on in the first place. LCD displays are not very liquid at extremely low temperatures!
Another more recent project was with battery pack bottles, which stemmed from a customer requirement to extend the life of the batteries to power their equipment for longer. We developed the bottles, with me doing most of the board design as a customer special, and now they have become a standard product, available for anyone to buy and use with our equipment or other people’s. It’s a great example of a customer challenge or need driving industry innovation.
“As a family-run, independent business we’re able to provide exceptional customer service. Our ‘no problem’ attitude to requests is our main selling point.”
What do you enjoy most about the design, building and testing process?
The variety of it all. Some days I could be helping customers all day, many remotely all over the world, about all kinds of issues. I love the interaction and problem-solving.
I also enjoy the continual improvement of products and being able to have influence over where that goes. We recently improved our 1519 Release Beacon so that its safe working load significantly increased from 75kg to 125kg, which makes a big difference to customers. That’s very satisfying.
It’s just great to be part of a team that’s looking at new products all the time, bringing them to market and seeing them do well. It’s all about hearing the feedback from customers and seeing them come back again and again to buy more!
What makes aae technologies unique?
As a family-run, independent business we’re able to provide – in my opinion – far better customer service than our larger competitors. Our customer-focused approach and our ‘no problem’ attitude to requests is our main selling point. We’re agile, can adapt to customer needs and give our full attention even to small engineering jobs. And because we use local suppliers and local people, we can get prototypes and one-off solutions developed comparatively quickly.
One good example is custom cable moulding, where clients need cables to interface into an ROV and then link up to battery packs to supply additional life to a transponder beacon. They’ll want us to build the entire solution – cables and equipment – so that it links up to their ROV and they can talk to it through the ROV umbilical. Larger competitors typically make their own equipment but won’t source and build a whole custom solution.
What are you excited about for the future?
We’re looking to enhance our MiniPod range to increase the number of MiniPods simultaneously operating over the wireless connection and increase data speeds. We’re also continually improving the accuracy and reliability of acoustic positioning equipment with further trials scheduled later in the year. All very technical, but exciting – especially for customers!
Struggling with your existing equipment?
In the latest edition to our team spotlight series, we speak to Gavin Willoughby, Business Development Manager, about his role, our defence offering and his love of rugby.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies, in your own words?
My position as Business Development Manager is extremely varied, and I’ve been really lucky that it’s a role that has evolved as the company has grown. I’m now in my 18th year with aae technologies, and as a member of the senior management team, I’m working across the whole group of companies, liaising with all departments, advising and implementing strategy and representing the group on the international stage.
If I could describe my day-to-day role, it would predominantly involve the sales function of the business and how that is managed and run. I also manage direct sales, contact and communication with customers, existing and qualified leads, as well as finding new opportunities, industry connections and product ranges. It’s a whole lot of everything, and although it’s a cliché, it’s a fact that no two days are the same.
When I started with aae technologies, there were around 15-20 people in the company, and as the only sales person in the organisation, it was for me to build up the sales and commercial side of the business. Fast forward 17 years and we now have a company of 50+ people serving many industries with a much wider product range; and as the company has evolved so has my role, becoming a Director with a specific focus on the company’s defence division.
What was your background prior to joining aae technologies?
I studied mechanical engineering at Norwich City College, after which I took on a temporary sales role with an engineering company, where I ended up staying there for 14 years. It turns out sales is my comfort zone!
The company operates in a very niche industry. What attracted you to it?
At that time, I was in need of a change of direction and scenery, looking for something specifically in technical sales, which blended my sales and business experience with my technical knowledge. I saw that applied acoustic engineering (as it was known at the time) was advertising for a technical sales person, and after looking further into the company and its operating environment, I knew that was the role for me.
I was drawn to the fact that applied acoustics was a small independent business with a good reputation, successfully operating in the global arena. International travel has always been a fascination of mine; I’m very interested in other countries, their people, and their cultures. Growing up in Norfolk with its 130km coastline has also made me very at home with the sea, so the attraction to an ocean technology company was not easy to ignore. I met with Adam, our CEO, a couple of times and he gave me the opportunity to join the team, all these years later it’s an opportunity I’m still enormously grateful for.
What do you enjoy about this industry?
This is an extremely niche business that takes on the challenges of the subsea environment and overcomes them with our design capabilities and engineering output, something which is hugely satisfying as it is enjoyable. I love hearing from customers, finding out about what they are trying to achieve, challenges that they have and finding the right product that is going to support them to achieve their goals. I like to grow working partnerships with customers, developing close relationships with people that become long-term partners; many customers we work with now have been working with us since the formation of the company. Customers know they can come to me to discuss their next project and they know I will do everything in my power to find the right products to support; and circling back to my formative years in Norfolk, to be lucky enough to work in an environment where I can spend lots of time on the water demonstrating products or travelling to different countries is a huge draw.
I also love the fact that technology is evolving and advancing to keep pace with the requirements of our customers and the wider industry. I’m learning something new every day, and I doubt that will ever stop.
How would you summarise aae technologies’ expertise in the military/defence industry?
When I first started at aae technologies, our business largely focussed around the offshore oil & gas industry, though it quickly became apparent that we should strengthen our business through diversification into other industries and addressing new applications. Maritime defence was an area that we had limited knowledge of, so I started going to defence trade events, meeting key industry personnel and learning about this market sector, quickly realising it had similar challenges to the oil & gas sectors. Underwater acoustics can be tailored to meet lots of different needs and the defence organisations and naval groups of the world have requirements that can be met using our technology.
Having worked with international navies of vastly differing sizes, capabilities and budgets, I’ve learnt that all have contrasting needs, and face all manner of challenges, but all equally require advanced solutions within their constraints to meet their primary objectives. In 2005, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Royal Navy provided an opportunity for us to successfully demonstrate our capabilities, resulting in a long-term partnership that continues to this day. With the Royal Navy held in such high esteem worldwide, this partnership has allowed a great deal of pre-qualification for supplying our products and services to many of the world’s navies, particularly those within the NATO group of countries, leaving us proudly flying the flag for British engineering and manufacturing.
Defence contracts are very different to standard commercial work; their timescales are far lengthier, there is more admin for their teams, more government intervention, more testing and qualification involved in the process, so they tend to take longer to come to fruition. We’ve had to adapt our processes to create tailored solutions, which the industry has grown to know and admire and we’re seeing more and more business coming to us for bespoke engineering support.
What would you say sets the company apart in this area?
We have the agility and flexibility to be able to change what we are doing. Within the defence industry there are always multiple stakeholders involved in large scale projects, all who need to have input in products and differing needs. We are flexible to take on board all the requirements and come back with relevant solutions. By having an area of aae technologies group that focuses solely on defence contracts, we are specialists in the industry for our field of expertise.
We know some of the larger defence contractors are more than capable of providing for the industry, however we provide a more realistic and competitive option, we meet the objectives within the confines of government budgets.
What are your plans for aae’s defence offering moving forward? Any new products or developments in the pipeline?
Many countries are developing and investing in their submarine capabilities, equally many countries are growing their capabilities in anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This heightened awareness of the underwater battlespace is leading to an increased need to have effective products to counter potential threats.
Furthermore, the concern that that subsea pipelines, cables and other infrastructure could become targets is also increasing, and so naval organisations need to be equipped to protect these environments and have greater underwater monitoring capabilities. We continually carry out R&D to support this sector, developing acoustic systems that can keep us ahead of the curve.
Away from defence, we’re heavily involved in the offshore wind industry, something that’s taken off in a huge way in recent years, particularly along North America’s eastern seaboard. It’s an area of specific interest to us, and a market where we’ll continue to focus our attention. And though I am responsible for the group’s defence business, by spending more of my time on the other side of the Atlantic I’ll be better placed to develop our North and South America commercial offshore activities too.
What are your main interests outside of work? Any interesting facts?
Rugby has always been a big part of my life, I started playing when I was 10 and played my last game 35 years later. Rugby feeds into my business persona – being a decision-maker within a team of like-minded individuals, there’s a lot I take from sport into business. You also come into contact with people from all other walks of life, all with stories to tell and experiences to share. Like my aae technologies career, rugby has taken me all the way around the world as a player and a supporter. Playing in Australia and South Africa, in particular, will be forever etched in my memory.
I am a bit of a wine lover too, I have a very small share in a vineyard in Southern France, and although it’s been a very long time since my last trip, I’m looking forward to revisiting that soon.
In 2019, aae technologies opened an office in North America (Canada), which I was running prior to the pandemic, in support of the North American defence industry. Once the world opens up to international travel again, I’ll be back in North America on a semi-permanent basis to grow the region into a major part of the group’s business activities.
Michael Calvert, our Geophysical Product Manager, tells us why geophysics gets him out of bed in the morning and shares his plans for our renewable energy offering.
How would you describe your role at applied acoustics?
As geophysical product manager, I have quite a varied role. Anything from product training and working on design and development, to organising product trials and answering customer questions and support requests. The whole spectrum.
My main purpose is to be a communications hub, organiser and fixer. With my background as a geophysicist, I can see our products from a customer’s perspective. I talk to engineers, customers and sales, linking them all together to deliver the best product possible.
Where did your interest in geophysics and subsea equipment start?
It was a less usual and more diverse route that led me to this role. Initially, after leaving secondary school, I worked as an electrician. Then, in my late twenties, I went back into full-time education, completing a foundation course in electronic engineering at the University of York.
I have always been a practical thinker, but with a keen interest in earth and life sciences too. I think the subject of geophysics appealed to me because it combines all of these aspects. Therefore, after my studies at York, I went on to complete an integrated Masters in Geophysics at the University of Southampton.
The great thing about working on geophysical surveys, especially marine geophysics, is that you’re often the first to see a part of the world that has never been seen before. That really appealed to my spirit of discovery.
Why did you join applied acoustics?
I’ve worked as an offshore geophysicist for several years (Gardline and EMGS) and it’s not always easy. You’re away from home for six months of the year or more, so I’d always planned to eventually find a shore-based role. The Covid situation this year caused a lot of disruption to offshore survey projects I was working on and provided me with an opportunity to re-assess my work-life balance.
The role at applied acoustics appealed to me because it brought together my knowledge of geophysics and skills from my electronic engineering background. applied acoustics is also a long-term supplier of survey equipment to companies like Gardline, so I already knew they were well-established and respected in the industry.
How would you summarise your experience of the renewables sector?
The majority of my renewables experience came at Gardline. I was involved in offshore wind farm projects in the UK, Europe and USA, working with the likes of Equinor (formerly Statoil) and Ørsted, one of the biggest companies in the offshore wind farm sector.
Some of the projects focused on UXO surveys and clearance, while others incorporated a combination of geophysical methods including seismic surveys, side scan surveys, magnetometers, bathymetry, geotechnical surveys and geohazard identification.
What unique challenges and opportunities do renewables projects offer?
Most windfarms tend to be sited in very shallow water settings, which can be particularly challenging for seismic surveys. These surveys are typically aiming to acquire ultra-high resolution (UHR) data for the near-surface portion of the seabed (first 50m or so).
To get the best results, the surveys depend heavily on highly accurate positioning of equipment (source and receiver), high-frequency sampling of data, and precise timing of events (shots points and arrivals). The combination of these factors mean the UHR surveys, particularly multi-channel surveys, have a very low tolerance for error.
There are also multiple stages to a renewables project, from assessing the viability of offshore construction sites through to construction, then ongoing monitoring and maintenance. As a result, renewables projects tend to be large in terms of geographic area and data volume, not to mention long-lived. This allows us to build relationships with clients over a number of years.
How are applied acoustics’ products designed to suit the needs and challenges of the renewables sector?
Many of our sparkers are designed to produce the high frequencies required for UHR seismic surveys. Our Dura-Spark 240/400 and 400+400 in particular give their users a great amount of flexibility when it comes to varying the source’s power level, pulse shape, frequency content and bandwidth.
Our USBL tracking systems and positioning beacons deliver accurate results in shallow-water and deep-water settings, with little interference. We recently launched our Easytrak Pyxis INS + USBL system, which was very much designed with shallow-water renewables operations in mind.
How are you looking to enhance applied acoustics’ support for renewables clients?
One of our main aspirations is to stimulate discussion and establish trust with everyone in the geophysical survey chain. Our primary relationship is usually with the acquisition company, but by engaging with data processors and the end clients, we can build an even greater understanding of the sector, how it is changing and how we can adapt to that.
We are looking to encourage collaboration at all stages of the process and develop “virtuous circles” with clients. If we can enhance our products to better suit a client’s needs, they can acquire high-quality surveys and in turn make good project decisions.
Granted it’s been a difficult year for building contacts and relationships, but like any problem, we can find a solution if we work together.
Please get in touch with our team today to discuss your renewables project, or reach out to Michael directly on MCalvert@appliedacoustics.com.
As we moved into April, not only did we see every season occur here in the UK, but we also celebrated another team member’s anniversary. This time, it was the turn of Rob Whiting, our Production Manager.
Rob first started with applied acoustics in 2001 as a Test Engineer, joining Adam and James as employee number 11 in the business. Rob had some experience of offshore life as a trainee survey engineer but quickly had to adapt his skills to become an applied manufacturing engineer, occasionally stopping on his journey for a beer or two.
When we caught up with Rob, this is what he said about working with us:
“applied acoustics is a great family business that has given me both employment and opportunity for which I am grateful. It has been great working to help serve our customers and expand the business via its technology, processes, and premises over the years. As part of my role, I have introduced into production countless new products, attended many trade events, and had the opportunity to travel and advance my education.
“When you look back at what we have done 20 years doesn’t seem long enough! I would like to thank Adam and all the team at aae technologies for many great years as it’s great collaboration that makes it all work and I look forward to many more years ahead.“
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to speak to Adam about working with Rob over the course of 20 years;
“The business has changed somewhat since Rob started with us. Initially, as an Electronic Test Engineer, he was always good at getting things finished and ready to ‘get out of the door’, understanding the importance of our customer’s needs. More latterly as part of the management team he gives a clear insight as to what he needs from engineers in order to build products on time, ensuring delivery times are met and stock levels are maintained.“
Thank you for your continued support and hard work Rob, here’s to many more years.
This week, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of James Eman joining applied acoustics. What a journey we have been on in those 30 years!
James joined the business in 1991 as an Electronics Technician. Back then, James and Adam built transponders in a converted goat shed after Adam saw a gap in the market.
I caught up with James on his anniversary;
“It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been working for aae for 30 years, time has flown. So much has changed over the years but it still feels like a family. We have a lot of long term staff here and it’s not often someone leaves, it’s a friendly and nice place to work.
I previously worked with Adam at Ferranti ORE after I left school as a Trainee Technician, so I jumped at the opportunity to work for him when circumstances allowed this.“
As the orders grew the business moved into new commercial premises, with James progressing to Electronics Engineer, Production Supervisor, and then onto Production Manager. 12 years ago, there was an opportunity for the business to have a dedicated Health and Safety Manager, seeing the link between his skills and expertise, James was the perfect candidate:
“As I had gained a broad range of skills and operational experience from having performed most of the jobs within the company over the years, I was a good choice for this role with QA, Environmental and Logistics too.
It’s never a dull day here especially with the current challenges the pandemic has presented us with. It’s satisfying to know that our customers are happy with our products and the services and support we offer. I’m glad to be part of the team and look forward to continuing this within our group of companies into the future.”
“James was our first employee and has supported the business for a long time. When he first started, we sent him offshore and he had a job operating some equipment for us on Gardline’s Resolution. Unfortunately, he was so ill that he had to be taken off the vessel! As a result, his career changed tack and was responsible for writing the code for some early products before moving to Production and now he heads up our QHSE and Logistics departments.”
Thank you for all your support and dedication to the business James.
The selection of suitable sites for offshore wind development is an extremely complex issue that takes into account many factors including water depth limitations, environmental restrictions and the potential maximum distance from onshore assets. However, one of the critical elements in site selection for these installations are geological restrictions, and this is an area where the expertise of applied acoustic engineering (aae) is helping to shape the landscape of the industry.
Prior to the construction of an offshore wind facility, site characterisation surveys are required to evaluate the impact of seafloor and sub-seafloor (sub-bottom) conditions on the construction, operation and structural integrity of the proposed area.
Surveys requiring the acquisition of geophysical information are typically carried out using surface towed sensors, with aae’s range of sub-bottom profiling systems leading the way in terms of data quality and adaptability. aae’s boomer and sparker systems are being utilised to collect site-specific data such as stratigraphy, sediment variability and structure, buried boulders and rocky outcrops. Geomorphological features such as faults and folds can also be detected as well as the presence of shallow gas pockets and other potential geo-hazards. The method used to achieve this is a seismic reflection technique that relies on the interpretation of reflections from acoustic impedance changes at geologic formation boundaries.
Each aae system consists of a vessel based seismic energy source (a CSP power supply); a seismic sound source towed on the sea surface (boomer or sparker); single or multi-channel hydrophone streamers that receive the reflected signals, and data acquisition and processing software. Offering a modular range of sub-bottom profiling products, aae is able to configure systems that can be used aboard any size of survey vessel and for varying conditions of geological states and water depths.
Whilst aae produces an extensive range of geological survey systems, the S-Boom triple boomer and the Dura-Spark sparkers are particularly adept in shallow waters in which these site surveys and cable route surveys are generally carried out. Four seismic sound source sparkers are available for these applications, ranging from the L80, a lightweight 80 tip sparker used extensively in very shallow areas, coastal or estuarine surveys, up to the twin-deck UHD 400 + 400, which features ‘tuneable’ twin banks of electrode tips that can provide the highest resolution data for windfarm site survey applications.
In addition to the geological information acquired with the towed sub-bottom profiler, aae also provides positional information of the hydrophones through the use of 101G MiniPod submersible GNSS receivers. The MiniPods can be installed on the head and tail buoys of the hydrophone streamers to confirm their precise position enabling geo-referencing of the geological data.
When integrated with geo-technical results from core samples, borings and data from bathymetric and other surface condition surveys, the data collected using aae sub-bottom systems provides a key insight that ultimately helps to determine the suitability of proposed offshore installations, helping to create and sustain the future of renewable offshore energy.
On 4th October the Applied Acoustics team came together to take part in the World’d Biggest Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, raising a fantastic £385.
The total was generously matched by the company, doubling the dough raised to a whopping £770! The money raised helps provide essential physical, emotional and financial support to those that need it.
Thank you to all who baked, and ate!
Continuing the celebration of 30 years in business, the Applied Acoustics family closed out the summer with a grand casino and party night in it’s home town of Great Yarmouth. Recognising some of the company’s fantastic achievements and successes of the last 30 years, it’s clear that none of this would be possible without a dedicated and talented group of individuals working together as one team.
From humble beginnings supplying acoustic positioning beacons, the company has developed in expertise and now manufactures an extensive portfolio of highly technical acoustic products for a wide variety of industries including offshore renewables, oceanographic and research institutes, offshore oil and gas and defence, and can be found in the oceans right across the globe. Some things may have changed over the past three decades, but Applied Acoustics commitment to its customers remains the same.
Here’s to the next 30 years!