The GLA Research and Development Directorate (GRAD) was established in 2005 as the result of a merger between a tri-GLA Research and Development department and a Trinity House Radionavigation Department. GRAD is a central resource for the three GLAs and its Director reports to all three Chief Executives.

GRAD’s core business is the research and development of physical and radio marine aids to navigation (AtoNs), support systems and their integration to support the GLA’s mission to deliver a reliable, efficient and cost-effective AtoN service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.

The various disciplines comprising the Directorate’s work are the result of nearly two hundred years of advanced coastal lighting and systematic technological advancement, working with scores of scientists, engineers, and advisors, including Michael Faraday, Robert Stevenson, Professor John Tyndall, and Lord Rayleigh, to name a few.

Work on trialing and perfecting the many types of lens technologies, fog signals, and fuel and power sources was initially performed as a constant background function of Lighthouse service provision, to ensure the most reliable and economical usage of the Aids to Navigation.

Standardisation of technologies between marine nations was perhaps one of the key factors causing Research and Development to become a distinct function in the 1950s. This drove the experimental, technical and strategic development of both domestic and international marine Aids-to-Navigation.

From the age of Fresnel’s lenses, Dalen’s Nobel Prize-winning Sun Valve and the heyday of the Chance Brother Lighthouse Works, came the onset of radionavigation, digital instrumentation, electrification and automation.

Historically, a number of sites were used to further these activities, such as the Dungeness Experimental Station, the Blackwall Workshops (London), and East Cowes (IoW) – the base used to automate the estate of Trinity House lighthouses and light vessels. Today, GRAD is a distributed team with Harwich-based and Home-based staff.

GRAD is now recognised as a world-class centre of excellence in the fields of visual signalling and radionavigation and its current work programme is focused on delivering strategic objectives that support existing services and prepare for the introduction of e-Navigation over the next decade.