TNO has a number of interesting vacancies in its Defence, Safety and Security unit. To get an impression of the kinds of challenges involved in working in this field, we talked to two unit researchers, Laura Anitori and Albert Huizing, both of whom work in the Radar Technology department.
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Senior scientist Laura Anitori (38) did her Master’s in Telecommunications Engineering in Pisa, and gained her PhD at TU Delft. There she researched into new radar techniques and came into contact with TNO, where she has now worked for the last eleven years.
Laura was recently awarded a prestigious prize for her work, the (first-ever) NATO STO Early Career Award. This is an important award, given to recognize the work of young professionals within NATO research programmes and intended to excite the interest of others (both within and outside NATO) in the defence technology field.
You work in the Radar Technology department. What exactly do you do there?
“My research world is a much bigger place than just the TNO lab”
What makes your work so unique?
“I’m a researcher in a specialist area and I learn something new every day. And because my research sets out to apply this knowledge, it makes my work very relevant. TNO works closely with the industry and with the Dutch navy. We’ve drawn up a road map showing the innovations we want to work on together over the next ten years. So my research world is a much bigger place than just the TNO lab.”
What does a day at TNO look like?
“I talk to my colleagues a lot about what we’re doing and what to do next. We discuss our results, and we brainstorm. Sometimes I work at another location; recently, for instance, I was at a large Dutch company, a leading radar tech manufacturer, to do radar measurements. We’re also setting up an experimental measurement environment, to test our new radar techniques. Hopefully it’ll be ready by the end of this year.”
Do you ever think about the impact of your work?
“Absolutely! Radar technology is essential to keeping the peace in the Netherlands and everywhere else. So I have a strong feeling that I can contribute something towards peace and safety in the world.”
“Radar technology is essential to keeping the peace in the Netherlands and everywhere else. So I have a strong feeling that I can contribute something towards peace and safety in the world”
Working at the top in radar technology
Principal scientist Albert Huizing (61) also works at the TNO’s radar department. He started working there straight after completing his engineer’s training in 1981, and never left. Besides his work in radar technology, he also directs the artificial intelligence programme.
What’s so unique about your work at TNO?
“Dutch radar technology is some of the most advanced in the world. It’s good to be able to work with the best equipment and the most advanced technologies. And it’s not just about the technology – it’s about societal and global developments too. What will military operations look like in 10 or 20 years’ time? What sort of missions will the military be involved in? And what are the implications for radar technology? At TNO, you also get to think about these kinds of questions. So you investigate technology in depth – but you also have to be aware of developments in a wider context.”
“At TNO, it’s not just about the technology – it’s about societal and global developments too. What will military operations look like in 10 or 20 years’ time?”
Your field sounds very interesting. Could you give us an example?
“Years ago, I was working on the radar system that the navy used to intercept and destroy missiles. When the new technology was deployed for the first time, the military took me to the Azores, where the radar-guided weapon system was tested. That was spectacular!”
Do you feel your work is of value to the Defence, Safety & Security field?
“Yes. After the end of the Cold War, in the early 1990s, I lost that feeling for a while; the world seemed to have become a safer and more stable place. But since the attacks of 11 September 2001, and more recently with the war in Syria, everything’s changed. I’ve come to realize that you cannot take peace for granted; you need military means to protect democracy, and sometimes to enforce it. For the military, radar is a very important tool.”
“Years ago, when the new technology was deployed for the first time, the military took me to the Azores, where the radar-guided weapon system was. That was spectacular!”
You also direct the artificial intelligence programme. What role does AI play in radar?
“We’re trying to get the computer to learn something from coarse-grained radar images. With ‘deep learning’ methods you can extract more information out of those images than with traditional techniques. The technology can be applied very broadly, too; for instance, a television with an integrated radar could interpret the user’s gestures, so that you could use arm and hand gestures to operate the television.”