Meet our Alumni: Richard van Schalkwyk

24 Feb 2015 - 10:30

We recently interviewed Richard van Schalkwyk, one of the graduates of our Radar Masters programme, for our website:

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in Pretoria, and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Pretoria with distinction in 2009.

From 2011 to 2014, I attended various modules of the MEng (Radar and Electronic Defence) at the University of Cape Town, graduating in 2014 with distinction.

My supervisor was Prof Mike Inggs and the topic of my MEng dissertation was “Scattering Centre Extraction in High Resolution Radar Imaging” (the abstract can be viewed here – and the dissertation itself can be downloaded here).

I am currently working at the CSIR DPSS in the field of Radar.

Tell us a bit more about your dissertation?

The topic of my minor dissertation was point scatterer extraction in high resolution radar imaging.

Emphasis was placed on the ideal point scatterer model where two model based techniques surfaced as complementary. A hybridisation of the techniques was proposed where the first technique was shown to reduce an error degrading the performance of the parametric spectral estimation techniques originating from the transforming of measured data in polar space to Cartesian space.

The images below show the dihedral geometry used in the CEM simulations with the extracted dominant scattering centres, using the proposed hybrid approach.


What benefit did you derive from the Radar Masters programme?

Given prior exposure to radar at the CSIR, the programme gave me the opportunity to take a step back and reconsider some of the underlying principles governing radar operation and doctrine in greater detail than I had done previously. The programme also afforded me the opportunity to interact with prominent figures in the Radar community. The small classes and direct access to these individuals allowed for interaction at a unique level – a level not achieved on other platforms, such as radar conferences etc.

What did you find the most enjoyable?

I found the mid-week site visits during the programme most enjoyable. Two notable trips for me included viewing the equipment used by the air traffic control (ATC) at Cape Town International airport and the manufacturing of antennas at Cobham. During the ATC visit, we were given the opportunity to observe a few radars in operation as well as tour the main control room. The experience made me appreciate the complexities faced in generating an air and ground picture that can be used to control aircraft.

What did you find the most challenging about the course?

I found the intensive block-week style of lecturing the most challenging element of the course.

What is your current area of interest or research?

Autonomous systems (from driver-less cars to robots and weapon systems etc.) and supporting technologies is a field I am really interested in. The complexity and intricacies of the sensing systems required to provide sufficient information for an autonomous system to interpret its environment and react appropriately are what interests me the most. This interest mostly likely stems from the strong overlap in challenges encountered in the radar and electronic defence domain.

What advice do you have for your fellow students?

Even without prior experience in the field, I believe that this programme is well suited for anyone who is interested in a career in radar and electronic defence. While the programme provides a good foundation, it remains the students’ responsibility to continue upskilling themselves post qualification.

Thank you very much for participating in our interview series, Richard – and best of luck for your future career!