August 2015

I was very pleased to attend a meeting of the Society’s Specialist Groups Committee (SGC) held at No.4 Hamilton Place in early July. The hard work undertaken by the 24 Specialist Groups overseen by the Learned Society Board underpins maintenance of the Society’s reputation as the world’s leading learned organisation serving the incredible range of professions and disciplines that make up aviation and aerospace today. The Society is indebted to all those who invest so much time and skill to carry on this work.

It is a key strategic aim for the Society to enhance its learned output and to increase its contribution and influence within the wider debates taking place in our areas of expertise. To this end the SGC considers and selects a small number specialist and cross cutting subjects that should be adopted as key themes for the Society over the coming period.

Similarly, each year the President selects one topic as the keynote theme for his or her Presidential year. Last year Bill Tyack led the Society on the theme of ‘Space’ and I have no doubt that the profile lent to this subject through his efforts has contributed significantly to a greater awareness of the economic and technological contribution that this sector makes in the globally and in the UK particularly. The ‘Case for Space’ report published by London Economics on 14 July revealed that
Britain’s space industry which employs 37,000 people has more than doubled its turnover in the last decade to £11•8bn a year and is ‘punching above its weight’ in the international marketplace. The report also highlights the enabling impact the industry has on everyday life. Certainly if the large and enthusiastic attendance at recent Society space related events is anything to go by, then this is an area of our profession that is, once again, gripping young people.

For my Presidential theme, I have chosen Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) and this will be the subject of the Presidential Conference in early October. It is a complex and growing field of activity spanning military and civil users; it encompasses a diverse range and scale of platforms; it has significant implications for traditional skills and disciplines; it challenges our lawmakers and regulators; it brings the possibility to deploy technical applications of huge benefit but at the same time arouses fears and suspicions amongst the public. In short it is a field of activity in which the Society must provide forums for learned debate and channels for influence based on professional evaluation. As the SGC forum quickly concluded, UAS is a subject that touches just about all of our 24 Specialist Groups!

Martin Broadhurst OBE MA CDir FIOD FRAeS