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Unmanned Vehicles

Experiment enables soldiers and aircrew to partner with smart machines

24th September 2020 - 11:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Scientists from the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have overseen an experiment to see how humans and the new generation of smart machines can partner to change the way that military operations are conducted.

During a two-week exercise at Copehill Down Village, soldiers and aircrew combined their core platforms with industry-provided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and autonomous ground vehicles (UGVs) to study technologies that could help the British Army improve military advantage.

A 23 September statement by DSTL described how helicopter pilots controlled UAVs from the cockpit, providing ground troops and vehicles with improved situational awareness while tank commanders and dismounted troops used UGVs and UAVs to enhance their ability to find targets in complex urban environments.

‘Technically it's a big game of hide and seek,’ Cpl Liam Fisher, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said.

‘We can get hands on with the drones, get hands on with the ground vehicles and find the people you need to find. It will absolutely make a difference. There are parts where you can't go, especially for your dismounts. So instead of using ground troops, you can push the UGVs out or other vehicles out and get them to do your job for you instead.’

The UK Ministry of Defence is investigating how to reduce the collective burden of warfighting tasks on soldiers by exploiting software and autonomous vehicles to carry out tasks such as combat support and ISR missions.

The trial falls under the Army Warfighting Experiment, a project that has been running for the last ten years and gives personnel the opportunity to test a whole range of futuristic technology.

DSTL’s scientific expertise identifies and carries out initial testing on viable industry proposals to deliver technology that shows the greatest potential to the end user and deliver clear military and strategic advantage to the UK.

The industry partners were selected through a competition enabled by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to look for solutions to crewed and uncrewed teaming.

Industry teams were given 12 months to develop and deliver novel semi-autonomous uncrewed systems capable of being operated on the move in current British Army platforms in a representative military environment.

Industry partners and equipment included CGI with its UGV Wingman; General Dynamics, which provided a full Ajax-based UAS and UGV demonstration; Leonardo with a Wildcat Integrated MUMT solution; MIRA with a Viking UGV with simulated environments; Qinetiq, which carried out a cognitive load evaluation; and Tekever with its Enhanced Mission Autonomy Pack (EMAP).

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