80% OF REVENUE FROM OUTSIDE SPAIN

Spain 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ángel Ramírez, President of GTD, on robotics, tracking aircraft, and expectations for 2020.

Within your sector, GTD is an established company. How has it evolved since it started?

My business partner and I set up this company together with others who have since retired. The takeoff was fast: we did not have to seek financing or capital increase, nor did we have to let in partners. From the beginning, we were hired for projects in the robotics industry—it was our specialty at that time and still is, though now we are also in other sectors—and the automobile sector. We quickly started working in other sectors, and two years after our foundation, we started our first contracts with the European Space Agency. Although the core of the engineering work has not changed, it has changed in terms of quality control, work regulations, and project organization. The space world is much more demanding than the automotive world. In 2004, we separated from the automotive sector, as we could not continue working with a sector as demanding as the automotive industry at the same time as the space sector. Since 2004, we have five sectors with which we develop our engineering: aeronautical; logistics and transports; science, infrastructure, and robotics; and defense and security. More than 80% of our billing is with customers outside Spain. We have offices in France, Germany, the UK, and Morocco as well as partners in Latin America where we do projects. Currently, the balance is between services and projects, which took us a long time to achieve. Our services are selling standard software, licenses, user licenses, and adaptations of previous software.

Since the company's beginning, so much technology has been developed, and the use of big data has exploded. What change has been the most significant in this industry?

The most significant change is the way we buy information that is generated from space to determine the exact position of all aircraft on the planet. The Malaysia Airlines incident, for example, will never happen again. A Canadian initiative, alongside the US, took advantage of a constellation of 66 satellites by putting a small radar on board every spacecraft. This little radar saves us because, as an integrator of this data, we can know exactly where a plane is at every minute for the benefit of the airlines that are our clients. I can see if the plane is following its flight plan. Depending on the meteorological data and the position of the plane, we can recalculate the flight plan to save fuel and arrive on time. There are many things to do through the data that space provides you. Space started as GPS, but it goes much further. There are many more military applications but the applications of space to the civil field are fundamental. The new space will allow the launch of small satellites with a shorter life cycle but at a lower cost. I could do things that a large satellite is not intended to do, like visually track of cargoes or containers on a ship, or manage traffic. Logistics will change thanks to space, although we still lack satellites. The problem is how to put these small satellites into orbit at a decent price. Another great challenge is what will happen to all these satellites that are in orbit simultaneously. In space, everything is being piled up on top of each other; we have to be careful so that the satellites do not collide with one other.

What are some of your most innovative projects in the space sector?

Currently, we have a positive evolution. For us, space is mostly space transportation. Since 1990, we have worked on the European Space Agency's launchers program, and we are now with Ariane 6, a spectacular new rocket that will be launched for the first time in 2020. We are already working with Ariane Next Gen (the new generation after Ariane 6). There will be two pitchers of this project: one is large and one is smaller and both will be recoverable. We have to make everything recoverable because it is profitable.

What do you want to see happening to your company in 2020?

With regard to growth, our aeronautical business is the one growing the most at the moment. Every year, we double its size. The market is aimed at airlines, air traffic controllers, airports, and airport management. The aeronautical sector is complex and very 'tech-demanding.' It's about billions of dollars and airlines have to deal with many parameters to be profitable and that's not easy. We provide solutions that can help them save up to 3% per year, and that's a big deal. There is much work to do, especially because the sector is growing exponentially and present many opportunities for attentive engineers like us. There will be a meeting of ministers in Seville in 2019 with all the member countries of the space agency, where they will approve the budget for the next three years (20-22). However, you cannot do wonderful things beyond the budget ceiling. In the new space sector, there is private money; we do not depend on state budgets, but it is still a small business. Finally, we are also growing significantly in the maritime market with shipping companies and autonomous ports. The continent is growing exponentially, giving us a great deal of work.