Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin has announced that £3 million is on offer to academics and industry from all sectors to produce cutting-edge re-supply technology to troops serving on the frontline, in the next stage of the Innovation Autonomy Challenge.
Focusing on the challenging “last mile” of support, the challenge aims to find innovative new ways of re-supplying troops on the frontline and will be led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
In order to reduce the risk to troops and improve efficiency, the UK aims to develop autonomous systems for unmanned delivery of combat supplies, drawing on the rapid progress of the private sector in the development of delivery drones and automated deliveries.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin, said:
“Making sure we use the latest technology to keep our personnel safe and have the kit they need is a key part of our £800 million innovation fund.
“We’re challenging industry and academia to work with us to design ground-breaking autonomous systems that will get supplies to the frontline.
“Our investment in innovative solutions demonstrates how the government’s £178 billion equipment plan – supported by a rising defence budget – will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”
The Innovation Initiative and £800m Defence Innovation Fund aim to transform defence to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship – from laser weapons to autonomous vehicles.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is working with small firms, academics, industry and the new Defence Advisory Panel to find Twenty-first century solutions to defence challenges.
Funding will made available in two tranches – up to £1.5m to develop initial platforms and technology concepts.
At least £1.5 million more will then be released to build and test a smaller number of demonstrators, which can then be included in joint UK/US trials from October 2018.
The Challenge is the latest stage in MoD investment in unmanned and autonomous systems – in February, the Defence Secretary announced the launch of a two-year, £8m second phase of research and development with Leonardo Helicopters, exploring the future of unmanned air systems.
The competition runs until 21 June 2017.
The Dstl lead for the Innovation Autonomy Challenge, Peter Stockel, said:
“We are particularly keen to reach out and encourage organisations that might not have worked with the defence and security sector before – such as those developing commercial driverless vehicles, drone delivery services and robotic agriculture – to get involved with the challenge and help us rapidly advance the way we deliver tactical military logistics.”
The Innovation Autonomy challenge is part of the UK and US’s collaborative approach to innovation, announced by Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, and former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2015.
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