Chess Dynamics (Chess) is a surveillance and fire control specialist providing bespoke solutions for land and maritime domains. The business works alongside customers to deliver proven surveillance and fire control solutions for the most demanding environments.
Chess customers have access to advanced technology solutions to safeguard and secure valuable assets. With three decades of experience in designing, developing and manufacturing solutions from the ground up, including being able to offer first-rate bespoke design and rapid prototyping services, Chess designs and builds solutions and provides high-quality training, refurbishment, and maintenance services.
A history of innovation
David Tuddenham, Managing Director, shares the company’s story. “The business was founded in May 1993,” he begins, “with a focus on the design and manufacture of high accuracy, automated assembly machines, which played an active role in the semiconductor electronics manufacturing industry of that time. However, semiconductor manufacturing soon moved to Asia in a bid to reduce costs leaving the business with a stark choice; take on and compete with local assembly machine suppliers in China or significantly realign the business.
“At the same time, the defense industry was also adopting new technologies to reduce the risks for the war fighter. The defense industry was on the change and modernization was key. Due to the defense engineering background of the company’s founders, there was confidence that Chess had a part to play in this revolution. The business had gained an in-depth experience of high-speed automation, servo control and accurate positioning, so it was with this knowledge that it took a fresh look at the defense industry.
“In September 2001, we launched our first surveillance and fire control product called IOTA. The reaction at industry trade shows that year demonstrated that the product was exactly what customers and end users were looking for, and in fact the IOTA is still in service today with over 12 navies around the world including the UK’s Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. From those first defense contracts, Chess continued to grow. The journey has been underpinned by enduring customer relationships, many of which remain to this day,” he explains.
Tailored solutions for demanding environments
“From the outset, the company culture has been one of teamwork and partnership. We collaborate with customers and end users to provide a tailored solution to meet their needs and deliver enhanced capabilities. Chess is known as a business that’s not afraid of taking on some of the more challenging problems, and always has the drive and determination to deliver the solution. We continue to work closely with our customers and end users, delivering bespoke systems to meet the changing needs of today’s armed forces. But at the heart of our success are our employees. What they achieve daily is truly phenomenal, and their commitment to the company has been unwavering,” David enthuses.
“Chess designs and manufactures electro-optical fire control and surveillance systems for the defense industry around the world. Integrating the latest daylight TV cameras, thermal imaging cameras and other sensors such as laser range finders and tracking radars with our high accuracy positioners, we deliver very long-range surveillance, fire control and special project capability. Chess’ portfolio of proven surveillance and fire control solutions also includes counter-UAV (drone) protection systems, the Vision4ce branded real time video tracker and image processing solutions for electro-optic systems. We also provide a complete service including survey, installation, training, and maintenance across our entire product range, including bespoke engineering solutions.”
David continues: “Chess was selected by the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) to provide a Category 1 Target Location Error (TLE) vehicle mounted surveillance system for its Observation Targeting and Surveillance Systems (OTAS) project. CAT 1 TLE requires less than a plus or minus three-meter location error at a range of eight kilometers. The project is a mast-mounted observation and surveillance system deployed from the Norwegian CV90 reconnaissance vehicle providing extremely accurate battlefield data to the end user including highly accurate targeting data, persistent surveillance, wide area situational awareness, radar detection and tracking.
“To meet these very challenging customer needs, we developed the Hawkeye Modular Mission Pod (MMP) consisting of a thermal imaging camera, a high-powered daylight camera, a laser range finder (LRF) with a 30-kilometer-plus range and a laser pointer. Combined with Chess’ advanced geo data algorithms, the system achieves Category 1 TLE rating, the highest standard of accuracy enabling it to observe, target and understand the battlespace to ranges of more than 20 kilometers.
“The system is also integrated into a wide area Battlefield Information System (BIS). Combined with cutting-edge AI target classification and tracking tools, it provides the end user with un-paralleled situational awareness. Mounted on combat vehicles operating in the harshest climates and traversing the most arduous terrain, the MMP has been electromagnetic pulse certified and environmentally tested to withstand a temperature range of -30 to +60 degrees Celsius.
“With surveillance challenges within cluttered environments and threats becoming smaller, faster and more agile, we have to turn to technology to provide support to the end users of our equipment, supporting them in the task of threat identification and thereby reducing the operator burden. We integrate multiple sensors within a single command and control system and HMI to turn data into actionable information quickly such that the operator can quickly assess the threats and deploy the most appropriate counter measure or effector. Our use of AI and deep machine learning is a key part of that solution, enabling targets to be identified quickly and effectors made ready to deal with the threat following positive confirmation from the operator.”
Recent developments and future outlook
David proudly shares news of a groundbreaking development and R&D investment for the business and its sister company, SEA, within the Cohort Group. “The Ancilia trainable decoy launcher system, a highly intelligent maritime system that provides effective and rapid ship protection against incoming air, surface or subsurface threats is a step-change in decoy launcher technology compared to traditional fixed base solutions. Its trainable capability removes the need to maneuver the vessel to address incoming threats. It can host a wide range of modern decoy systems therefore equipping the ship against new and emerging threats including sea-skimming missiles, drones, and hypersonic missiles. The Ancilia system is expected to enter service with navies around the world in the coming years.”
Chess is dedicated to sustainable development and is working to reduce its environmental impact and to develop sustainable solutions for its customers. “We have invested in several energy-saving measures at our facilities to reduce our carbon footprint, including free-to-use electric car charging ports for our employees and visitors. All electricity contracts have been moved to 100 percent renewable sources and we have implemented a salary sacrifice EV car scheme to encourage our employees to change to 100% EVs. The company’s fleet of vehicles is also being replaced with EV cars and vans.”
2024 is shaping up to be another great year of growth. “As we continue our efforts and focus on expanding further into the Asia Pacific region, we are also looking at innovative ways in which we can tackle the extended supply chain lead times that have arisen because of the pandemic. Our customers have urgent needs all around the world to increase their surveillance and fire control capabilities rapidly, and we are looking to achieve a reduction in lead times through strategic purchasing and supplier initiatives whilst maintaining the ability to deliver bespoke solutions.
“One of the greatest challenges for a design-and-manufacture-to-order business, such as Chess, is navigating the current supply chain challenges of cost inflation, lead time and component obsolescence. How a manufacturing business adapts to these global challenges will determine how successful they are in growing their business. Companies that can adapt and evolve to address the changing threat will be the ones who differentiate themselves in the market and ultimately succeed.
“With our foundational products, our many years of pedigree in service, and new investment in high performance digital sensors, high accuracy positioners and AI-based image processing and tracking algorithms, we are very well placed for significant growth over the coming five years,” he concludes. “We have an amazing team that have the capability to deliver on that potential and with further geographic expansion, the demand for our products has never been greater!”