The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence, announces the purchase of five totally new autonomous land vehicle systems. Two contracts collectively worth ~£5m have been awarded to HORIBA MIRA and QinetiQ to produce a number of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and enabling autonomous systems as part of advancing Ministry of Defence (MOD) Transformation Fund commitments for the British Army.
Project Theseus, the development and operational field experimentation of autonomous logistic resupply systems, was announced by Secretary of State (SofS) for Defence, following the progress made by the Innovative Autonomous ‘Last Mile’ Challenge led by Dstl. The contracts form part of early de-risking work to increase the MOD’s understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these systems in areas such as mobility, vulnerabilities and safety; enabling the Army to take the project to the next stage, pending a further significant competition for Project Theseus to be launched by DE&S later this year.
Summer 2020 will see the arrival of three all-terrain VIKING 6×6 Unmanned Ground Vehicles, supplied by HORIBA MIRA, which are capable of carrying up to 750kg of supplies to frontline troops using advanced AI-based autonomy with GPS-denied navigation. Two TITAN Unmanned Ground Systems will then arrive through autumn 2020; comprising a tracked system based around a modular mission system software architecture. Experimentation and testing of these differing systems will inform further understanding of the capabilities that these autonomous systems can provide and implications for their integration with the wider defence logistics system.
The vehicles will be used by Dstl to conduct scientific and user trials in collaboration with the Combat Service Support Training and Development Unit (CSS TDU) based in Aldershot, and other British Army units. The work will seek to increase understanding of system potential and limitations to reduce the risks specific to acquisition of the Joint Tactical Autonomous Resupply and Replenishment (JTARR) capability, but will also develop deeper knowledge for the Army’s future employment of more advanced autonomous system capabilities.