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The long way round DSEi via Sandhurst, Iraq and Afghanistan

The long way round – DSEi via Sandhurst, Iraq and Afghanistan

Sky-Futures is a new and unique company that recruits UAV system experts and sells UAVs in the military and civilian markets. The company was established by former British Army Officers James Harrison and Chris Blackford who met and trained together at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Now 7 years later they will be exhibiting at DSEi. Both James and Chris served on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan gaining an operational insight and understanding into UAV systems and their capabilities. Their unique network of military UAV system experts and their knowledge of the civilian and military markets positions them perfectly to sell top quality UAVs. Additionally it allows them to recruit the best and most experienced personnel to provide training and operate the systems.  

After specialised training James joined the Grenadier Guards and Chris joined The Queen’s Royal Lancers. They both deployed with their Regiments to Iraq and Afghanistan on operational tours where they employed mini, tactical and strategic UAV Systems on a daily basis. These systems were used for tasks including: covert surveillance and intelligence gathering, target tracking, troop/mission support and battle damage assessment. The utility of the UAV as both a force multiplier and covert and risk free means of gathering intelligence was very apparent. James and Chris employed all types of UAVs from the hand launched Desert Hawk III to the British Army Hermes UAV and the Reaper and Predator systems operated by the RAF and USAF. Each UAV system has its individual merits and strengths with James and Chris deciding on the best and most effective use of the system against the perceived threat or task in hand. This first hand experience opened their eyes to the potential for UAVs in the civilian market.

Prior to Sky-Futures, James left the Army and worked for Deloitte as a strategy consultant where he was on the defence account and Chris undertook further military training and deployed as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) to Afghanistan.

The application of UAVs was fairly widespread when James and Chris deployed to Iraq in 2006/07. However the understanding and across the board appreciation of UAV potential began to increase greatly when the British Army deployed to Afghanistan. James says, & lsquo;I was deployed as an expert advisor to the American special forces in Northern Helmand during a very busy period. Working with the operation planning team the true tactical nature of UAVs became abundantly clear’.

As an FAC, Chris worked with a variety of UAVs and used them every single day during his seven month deployment to Afghanistan. According to Chris, & lsquo;UAVs revolutionised the way we deployed troops on the ground and the way we approached the threat – nothing else offered the same level of coverage’. This operational experience and understanding sets apart the Sky-Futures team.

In depth understanding of current UAV capabilities and potential places Sky-Futures in a position to bridge this cutting edge technology from the military to civilian marketplace.

Sky-Futures brings together the team’s UAV experience under one roof. Their tactical and operational knowledge and wider understanding of both military and civilian UAV requirements opens up a variety of opportunities for UAV manufacturers looking to sell into new markets. Combine this with an expansive Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) network and they have a strong market base to work from. The Sky-Futures position is further strengthened by the ability to recruit military trained UAV system specialists who perfectly complement the product capability. This combination of product and personnel is unique in the market place.

Sky-Futures see the future as one dominated by UAVs cutting edge technology without the human risk element, providing real time imagery intelligence to all. Their unique position allows them to use their expertise to effectively sell UAVs for manufacturers into their ISR network and new markets as well as recruiting expert pilots, sensor operators and technicians.


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