Cambridge Consultants spins out Aveillant to get wind farms turning

25 Oct 2011

New high-tech radar company removes key barrier to wind energy expansion

Cambridge Consultants, creator of a stable of successful high-tech start-ups, today announced the spin out of Aveillant with venture investment from DFJ Esprit and AIFCL, the wind industry fund.

Aveillant’s technology will remove the concerns about aviation safety and air defence that are holding back growth in the wind energy industry. Wind turbines in motion can mimic aircraft on an air traffic controller’s radar screen.  Aveillant will provide airfields with the accurate radar data needed to eliminate the potential confusion this could cause, without any resulting loss or compromise in performance. The need is urgent; currently 66% of all wind farm applications, equating to 6.5 gigawatts* of electricity, are being delayed due to this problem in the UK alone. The launch of Aveillant is a crucial step towards removing a key barrier to harvesting clean energy around the world.

Aveillant’s business will be to supply equipment and services that will reconcile wind turbines with radar. As aircraft fly above wind farms, current radar systems have struggled to distinguish between the aircraft and the rotating turbine blades, potentially causing air traffic controllers to lose sight of the aircraft on primary radar display screens. This can also cause vulnerability for national air defence. Proposed solutions already available lead to undesirable compromises either in radar coverage, sensitivity or accuracy. Aveillant’s wind turbine mitigation approach has been developed in consultation with all the key stakeholders, including wind farm developers, airport operators, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The result is a single mitigation technology that promises to meet both civil and MoD requirements, and will be cost-effective even for smaller wind farms, as well as generating jobs in the green energy sector.

Aveillant will exploit a new step-change in the development of radar technology in the form of its proprietary 3D holographic radar. The Aveillant solution will be able to recognise the presence and position of even small aircraft in the vicinity of the largest wind turbines, providing a level of accuracy that will assure safe separation of aircraft and turbine in the most demanding airspace. This capability was recognised in 2009 when successful trials of a small scale system for the MoD led to sponsorship for a proposal to the DECC’s Aviation Advisory panel. Consequently, it was the leading radar in-fill solution to be selected by the UK Government’s Aviation Management Board in 2010, and received offers of financial support from the Wind Industry.

This first part of a multi-million pound investment is being funded though a consortium of Cambridge Consultants, venture capitalist DFJ Esprit, and the Wind Industry’s funding body, the Aviation Investment Fund Company Ltd (AIFCL). Founders Gordon Oswald and Craig Webster from Cambridge Consultants are both joining Aveillant.

Ray Edgson, Ventures Director at Cambridge Consultants, said: “The unique radar offering is a result of our extensive work with aviation and wind energy stakeholders to create a technical solution which fully meets their requirements. At Cambridge Consultants we have a long history of spinning out successful companies, and we are confident we will see Aveillant go on to do the same.”

Alan Duncan, Managing Partner at DFJ Esprit, commented: “The demand for renewable energy is a global one, with governments around the world setting ambitious renewable energy targets. Aveillant provides us with an opportunity to invest in an industry leading 3D radar and a services business capable of unlocking the global potential of thousands of wind turbines, and the millions of units of renewable energy they will produce.”

Simon Christian, Chairman of the AIFCL, added: “The AIFCL was set up to support the development of technology which would eliminate the radar concerns, and we are pleased to be assisting in bringing this technology to fruition.  Aveillant’s solution promises to do this without any loss of ability to the current systems, and we look forward to having the technology available to us.”

Cambridge Consultants has created more than 20 companies in the past 50 years. Five of them have gone on to be listed on the London Stock Exchange, and several have been sold in multi-million pound deals. The company has created over a billion pounds worth of value and more than 3,000 jobs through its spin outs, and is seen by many as a founding father of the Cambridge Phenomenon.