A Personal Biography for James Dunthorne

"James has a strong passion for autonomous systems, particularly for those that fly. His aim in life is to help create an exciting and safe world for future generations and harness the power of autonomy. James is a natural leader, is highly ambitious and loves nothing more than tackling big problems"


James has a strong academic background studying drone technology during both his masters and his ongoing PhD. He is highly experienced in research, drone design, programming and testing. His PhD is focused on drone safety, looking for new methods to verify collision avoidance systems for drones. This includes formal verification and simulations, mathematically modelling unsafe collision scenarios to help engineers design and test their systems.

James built up a huge amount of experience developing complex algorithms in Matlab/ Simulink, in the field of control systems, collision avoidance, image processing, aircraft guidance and navigation. In his work he has developed a simulation environment which harnesses local optimisation algorithms, state space models. Kalman filters and autopilots

During this time he helped develop a system to control indoor helicopters, which was used by undergraduate students to test their algorithms. The system used Vicon cameras placed around the room, to track the helicopters position and relay this back to Matlab/ Simulink for real time control

He has two papers already published with IEEE which can be found on the publications page


During his career James has held positions of responsibility in manufacturing, operations, safety, training, airworthiness and research and development. However he is a born problem solver, taking complex technical and operational problems and deconstructing them into manageable solutions.

Current Employment:

  • Fleet UAS - Director - Consultancy specialising in safety cases, safety management, high accuracy data solutions and applications
  • ARPAS-UK - Standards Director - BSI, ISO and DIAG committee representation

Previous employers:

  • Plowman Craven - UAV Technical Manager - Integration of drones into the business, Safety, Airworthiness and Training Manager, Research & Development
  • Remote Aerial Surveys - Technical Manager - Systems integration, Sensor development, Application development, Research & Development
  • SkyView Robotics - Partner - Manufacture of fixed wing UAVs, IR sensor development, Image processing techniques to spot crop disease
  • Thales UK - Researcher - Future solutions on the Watchkeeper program, Command & Control, Mission System development
  • Loughborough University - Researcher - Micropilot integration into fixed wing UAV, Indoor helicopter control
  • JD Costumes - Owner - Part-time ebay business selling fancy dress costumes (Sister has continued the business)
  • Lloyds Bank - Customer Services Officer - Dealing with customer enquiries and selling financial products

Some example of his previous work can be found on the Example Work page

Standout Achievements

Development of VogelR3D

One of James' biggest achievements was developing the concept of the VogelR3D service by Plowman Craven. This service is the world's first high accuracy drone surveying solution for the rail industry, surveying critical infrastructure to sub 5mm accuracy in line with Network Rails Band 1 accuracy requirement for track design. The solution was independently tested by Network Rail and was hailed a "game-changer" for the rail industry

"The application of the VogelR3D system is a real game-changer for Network Rail and

helps us to satisfy many of our survey requirements in a safe manner without the cost

implications or potential programme delays associated with multiple possessions"

Chris Preston, Senior Engineer - Network Rail

Vogel R3D won the Service Innovation of the year award at the Rail Industry Awards 2018 and has resulted in several large companies trying to offer competing services. The service has received great feedback from clients, is featured in the Survey Associations "Client Guide To Photogrammetry", and is becoming increasingly popular, not only in the rail industry, but across other infrastructure projects. A video showing the VogelR3D system in action can be found here

Obtaining an Operational Safety Case From the CAA for Congested Area Operation

Whilst working for Plowman Craven, James managed to earn his company an operational safety case, which was awarded by the Civil Aviation Authority. This award allows his company to fly drones routinely in highly congested and risky areas such as central London and directly overhead live railway lines at distances as close as 10m from people, property and vehicles not under the control of the pilot. Only a small percentage of operators in the UK have been awarded with this type of permission

Election to Standards Director of ARPAS-UK

James was elected by members to the position of Standards Director of ARPAS-UK, the leading trade association for drones in the UK. In this position he will sit on several committees including BSI, ISO and DIAG to help develop drone standards to help progress the future of the technology. A full list of James' committee positions can be found here

Key Skills


Consultancy, Research & Development, Algorithm Development, Verification, Collision Avoidance, Control Theory, Aircraft Dynamics, Navigation & Tracking, Training, UAV Systems, Safety, BVLOS, Airworthiness


Surveying, Rail, Defence, Construction, Environmental, Property, Infrastructure, BIM, GIS


Embedded Systems, Arduino, Intel, Aerialtronics, Pixhawk, DJI, Micropilot, RGB Cameras, Gimbals, GPS, LiDAR, IR Camera, Thermal


Matlab, Simulink, Photogrammetry, UTM, AI, Distributed Ledger Technology, CAD, GIS, 3D modelling, Image Processing