Adnan Muhairi grew up like many of his Emirati compatriots with a keen interest in souping up motorbikes, fast cars and even small aircraft.
But after years of studying and then working on the other side of the world he has turned his engineering skills to some of the most advanced spacecraft in the known universe at Yahsat, the UAE's satellite company.
What does your job at Yahsat entail?
I've been with Yahsat for the past three and a half years. I'm a senior payload engineer here and I've been working on Yahsat Y1A and Y1B satellites. Basically I am involved in the procurement department with manufacturers of the satellites. What we do is initially we work with our strategy and business teams to design the satellite system to fulfil the requirements of the business model.
What do you have to study to be a spacecraft engineer?
I studied here in the UAE, I studied avionics, which is aircraft electronics, at the Higher College of Technology in Dubai, and then I worked in Korea for about three years.
I am the first avionics specialist in my family. My father was an architect and not an engineer. I didn't follow that path.
I mean, architecture is as interesting as engineering but I was more interested in mechanics and electronics and aviation and that kind of thing, so I was more drawn to that.
When did your interest in engineering begin?
I used to do a lot of reworking of engines on cars. I would have motorbike engines and do some work on car engines, and even little aircraft, model aircraft, engines. I would really like to do that.
Also science in school, we did a lot of electronics and physics, which I found really interesting. We had a lot of extra-curricular activities in school also that were related to this sphere.
From high school right through to college there was a lot going on in this sphere. It was very interesting.
How did you get to Korea?
Korea was an excellent experience. Basically, when I graduated college I was approached by the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology and they said, 'We have an interesting offer for you: it's about working on an earth-observation satellite. Just come over and we will tell you the details'.
So I went over to their office in the Fairmont and they explained to me what it was.
But you know, actually they didn't tell me it was in Korea in the beginning. They said just that it was in an advanced country, so I think maybe they thought that people didn't want to go to Korea for some reason. I mean, it's a completely different culture. You have to get used to it. But when they told me it was satellite manufacturing, I said yes without actually knowing where I was going.
And then they told me South Korea, which was absolutely fine by me. South Korea is a great country.
I caught a flight, headed over to South Korea and spent the next three years working there on the communications side of earth-observation satellites.
We were working in collaboration with a company called Satrac, a small South Korean satellite company.
What was the most interesting part of working in Korea?
Definitely the experience, the knowledge, the culture, the work ethic, the diversity, the different dynamic of working in that culture has been a great experience for me.
What's the single most exciting element of your job?
If I was to point out something that's cool, I think it's pretty amazing that within our group, not just myself but within our procurement and engineering group, we basically finalise the requirements from our business that is going to change the lives of millions of people across the planet. I mean, we span coverage from Africa to Europe to South-east Asia. All the regions around the Middle East.
When you are planning a system like this you know the decisions you make technically are actually going to change lives and economies - they are going to have a significant impact on each country.
So you know it is a small thing you are doing on paper and discussing in meetings that has huge impact across the world.
I think that is a very significant and a very cool thing.
What are the end products of your work?
With Yahsat, we provide all the normal conventional communications services you would expect from satellite technology.
And our main focus now is broadband technology. That is the new thing. With industry trends, obviously everything is moving to be internet-based and that was our last satellite, Y1B, that we are seeing successful results from. And that is where we are pushing to right now. Broadband satellites are now our key focus.
For example, if we have a specific market, say in Africa, with a certain population and a certain demographic, then we would say we need a beam of this size with a certain power-flex density of this size.
We have to decide on the data rates required and then, obviously, we would have to select appropriate locations.
Then if, for example, we are doing internet, we would have partners in maybe Europe that would push internet through our spacecraft and serve the people of that region with internet. Then the satellite manufacturer would go and refine it. He would do analysis on antenna design and all the real details.
A good example would be our latest project, Alyah 3. This is our latest satellite we are working on, which is currently in the planning and design phase. We are working a lot with the strategy team and identifying key markets to literally plan and design a system that will meet their requirements.
So for this new satellite we have developed an RFP (request for proposal) that will go out to industry with certain specifications.
We work with the satellite manufacturers on this, and then they get back to us and we sit and have meetings with them and we go into more detail on the design and try to refine it so that they understand our requirements.
Basically, we are designing the system for the satellite.
What advice would you give to other young people from the UAE who might consider following in your footsteps?
Obviously, I am going to specifically speak to the technical fields, but I think this probably applies across the board.
I think the first thing is definitely try to pursue something that you are interested in, something that you are passionate about.
Once you are involved in something that you feel passionate about, it is going to take some time before you achieve something. In the technology industry, the first couple of years working could be very overwhelming. There is a huge amount of information.
The industry is moving probably at the same pace you are trying to learn at. Everything is advancing very fast and you are trying to learn and to keep up at the same time.
So I would say invest some time in what you are doing. Try to learn, and once you give it some time you will really be satisfied with the work you are doing.
You will become immersed in your work and you will have to start persuading yourself to stop working so much.
I think younger generations will cling onto whatever they are interested in.
If they are interested in engineering, they know the motor industry is quite popular in Emirati culture so they are going to gravitate to that and try to exercise their interest in that.
But obviously as the UAE goes on, the interest will broaden and there will be a lot more things that people can get involved in.
Obviously the education community will offer a lot of different extra-curricular activities and people will find ways to build up their interests into different fields.
How important was the help you received from the government?
I think it is worth emphasising the opportunity that the UAE government is putting up before its young people.
If I didn't get the opportunity to go to Korea and exercise my interests in spacecraft, it would have been very difficult for me to reach the stage I have reached. It has been an excellent opportunity for me.
I would also like to stress the keen attention that the management within the Abu Dhabi Government has paid to developing the engineering force within the UAE.
One example is a great moment when we launched the Y1A satellite. We had huge support, we even had Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed attend the ceremony here.
It just shows that there is huge attention paid to this and I think that's a great thing.
And if the UAE maintains this then we will have a lot more stories like mine.