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Helping to solve one of the most complex GNSS problems

Working on GNSS applications that have a real-world impact: one of FocalPoint’s Principal GNSS Engineer’s Stuart Duncan, highlights the importance of his role to help improve positioning solutions for smartphones, wearables and vehicles.

We spoke with Stuart Duncan, a member of our GNSS team about his career as a Principal GNSS Engineer and how he acquired the depth of knowledge for tackling system level problems.

How did your career as a GNSS Engineer begin?

I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by an industrial partner for my PhD which was in GPS Attitude Determination for Microsatellites. This was an interesting route into the field and it meant that I got to work on real-life GNSS problems from the outset.

With so many interesting areas involved with GNSS - from designing and building real GNSS receivers, to application level processing of GNSS data using methods such a Real Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning or Precise Point Positioning, there's always an immediate challenge to solve. Being a GNSS Engineer can mean many different things and typically there's always something new to learn, which I personally love.

Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have worked across many of these areas in GNSS and as a consequence, I’ve had an interesting career to date.

Can you tell us more about your role at FocalPoint?

Typically my role as a GNSS Engineer is involved with understanding the digital signal processing that is required for our Supercorrelation technology to work - it involves refining our algorithms to achieve the best performance. Skills wise, I have developed a wide variety of fundamental skills required for a thorough understanding of GNSS, including RF, digital signal processing, mathematics and real-time software development.

What inspired you to make this career choice?

I was personally interested in working in the space sector and my PhD gave me a route into this. My interest is in the real-life implication of what we are doing - our technology can help people’s everyday interactions by improving the accuracy of GNSS positioning on their devices as well as presenting a step-change in terms of positioning innovation for the automotive industry.

What are the key skills and qualities for someone in your role?

There are lots of interacting parts of a GNSS receiver that affect the results it provides and how well it performs. Therefore an ability to understand the big picture of what is going on with a system is helpful. Typically you also have to be able to drill down to some fine detail of the system in order to debug a particular problem. Being able to take a methodical and thorough approach to understanding and solving problems is a given, combined with a mathematical and logical approach to work with an overall appetite for curiosity.

What advice would you give to someone starting out into the industry?

Working on building or using real GNSS receivers is fun, and has the potential to show you lots of interesting mathematical and scientific areas. There are open-source projects like GNSS-SDR that you can download and use for free, and cheap hardware like RTL-SDR that can get you started.

What attracted you to join the team?

FocalPoint has potentially solved one of the greatest GNSS positioning challenges and to be part of this story is an incredible privilege. The potential of our story excites me and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve with our innovative technologies as we exploit new opportunities in new markets. It’s great to be working with such an enthusiastic team and solving complex, real-world GNSS problems.

At Focal Point we are currently looking for highly talented GNSS Engineers to challenge our status quo and journey with us into our next chapter of success.

Is this you? Our latest GNSS Engineering vacancies can be found here.