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    Momentum Member Spotlight – January 2015

    AIAA Congratulates Jonathan Pelham

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

     

    Pelham_Jonathan The Member Spotlight swung overseas this month, focusing on Jonathan “Joni” Pelham, a researcher and Doctoral candidate at the Integrated Vehicle Health Management Centre at Cranfield University, Cranfield, England. He is also the founder and owner of MRO4RPAS, a consultancy offering “expert 3rd party maintenance, repair, & operations advice to RPAS users, including flight analysis, technical advice, procedures writing, and custom diagnostics.”

    Pelham won AIAA’s annual Twitter Contest at the recently held AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (SciTech 2015), January 5 – 9 at the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Fl. He tweeted 661 times to win the contest, winning the contest’s grand-prize of an iPad Mini. Pelham was attending SciTech to present his paper “Application of an AIS( Artificial Immune System) to the Problem of Through Life Health Management of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (AIAA-2015-1797).

    Pelham’s inspiration for entering the aerospace community was a bit different from past subjects of this column who almost always cited an adult or event in aerospace history as their inspiration, surprisingly Pelham cited insects and birds were his inspiration, stating “I've been inspired by birds and insects since I was young. Their ability to manoeuvre, cruise, and in some cases hover is nothing short of amazing. They fly slower than our aircraft can, with tighter turn radii and can autonomously identify threats, targets, and weigh all those up against their internal priorities.” He continued “I'm not directly inspired by people. I do however enjoy reading how others approached the challenges of aviation. I've read quite a bit about some of the giants of modern aviation. The autobiographies of Kelly Johnson, Stanley Hooker, Dan Raymer, and Michael Collins are some of the books on my shelf and I've found them all gripping reading. I hope in some way to learn the qualities and techniques I need to become a better aerospace engineer.”

    When discussing his future career within in the community, Pelham started in his past, relaying “. I yearned to go into space for some time but growing up I quickly realised my eyesight could never be good enough to be a pilot. I still maintain an interest in space but I have also discovered a love of seaplanes and ekranoplan. Something about their graceful lines and the saltwater spray as they take off and land is rather beautiful to my eye. There is unfortunately not much demand for these aircraft however.” Continuing, “There is however an area in which my interest developed during my degree and subsequent work. I became impressed by the various foibles and behaviours of aircraft and how they are linked to maintenance costs. This led me to my current PhD in Integrated Vehicle Health Management for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.” PeIham wrapped up his response, saying “I'm hoping to contribute to the improvement of through life aircraft health management and grow within this and the related domain of autonomous systems. These are highly related as if we desire more autonomous systems then we need to give robots a robust understanding of their own health state and how it might impact their ability to achieve their objectives.”

    When it comes to what the community can do to help students, Pelham said “. I've been exposed to several different routes to becoming a professional engineer. I can honestly say that the best engineers I've ever met have been apprentices who excelled and were sent to do a Masters afterwards. They exhibit an excellent grasp of both the theoretical and practical aspects of their fields. They also typically have more understanding of how the products are used operationally. I think my recommendation is shop classes as a requirement pre-degree and a preference for sandwich years during degrees.”

    As for what educational experiences make for a good engineering education, Pelham was direct, stating “A preference for project based learning and striving to help students put theory within its practical engineering context. I have a lot of sympathy to the notion that engineers performing research will always require a different skill set to design engineers. Perhaps this topic merits better discussion by professors with students. I also think it might be valuable to have an engineering design review competition. It might help students get used to the idea that their design solutions can never be neutral and that they must be able to communicate effectively why their design should be used.”

    When asked about the value of AIAA to the community and to students in general, Pelham enthusiastically relayed “I have been very impressed by the opportunities the AIAA can offer junior members to help them gain experience and broaden their understanding of their chosen profession. While at SciTech I met several students who had through networking and the AIAA managed to arrange a viewing for the SpaceX CRS-5 launch. I was impressed by their desire to see this launch and their use of the opportunity to find out more about the design and operations of spacecraft.” He continued, “I would certainly encourage those studying aerospace to get involved. It helps you understand your own profession and learn from those already experienced in the art. Meeting likeminded individuals and discussing with them topics of mutual interest serves to improve your ability to understand the full ramifications of how your work affects the world.”

    AIAA congratulates Joni Pelham on his recent victory in the SciTech 2015 Twitter Contest and for his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for the month of January 2015. We wish him the best as he continues his studies, and look forward to how he will help shape the future of aerospace.