The French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) has announced a new “optional tranche” contract awarded to Safran Electronics & Defense for FURIOUS (FUturs systèmes Robotiques Innovants en tant qu’OUtilS), a science and technology program that aims to develop innovative robotic systems for mounted and dismounted warfighters. The DGA’s announcement follows successful field trials of the FURIOUS robotic system, carried out by Safran in late 2021 at the French army’s urban combat training center (Sissone military base) – a key advance culminating in the firm contract phase.
During this phase, participants focused on the modular architecture concept (hardware and software), designed to ensure the autonomous operation of any terrestrial platform, whether crewed or not. Safran Electronics & Defense was able to deploy this architecture on three very different types of platforms included in the FURIOUS system. The optional tranche announced today aims to optimize this architecture and make the autonomous functions developed more robust (tracking passage points, replaying trajectories, monitoring the leader, autonomous target homing, etc.) within more complex and even unstable environments.
Given the tight deadline (18 months for the first phase of the project), Safran Electronics & Defense is building on its experience with the Patroller Cluster and is teaming up with highly motivated and agile SMEs, namely Effidence, Technical Studio, Sominex, Kompai, Squadrone System and 4D Virtualiz. Safran also initiated a collaboration with France’s leading robotics labs, including the CNRS (national center for scientific research), Pascal Institute, IRSTEA, Mines de Paris engineering school and L’INRIA. Another program participant is the “augmented soldier” chair, set up in the laboratory of the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan in 2017.
Safran builds on its skills and expertise to ensure the autonomy of both land platforms (robotics) and airborne platforms (drones): automated planning and control, geolocation, 3D environment perception based on semantic segmentation, and artificial intelligence-based processing software. The company has proven its credibility through real-world projects such as FURIOUS in France, or its European counterpart, iMugs, financed by the European Defense Fund. The launch of the planned Vulcain robotics unit by the French army, designed to officialize the army’s robotics needs by 2030, is a clear sign for the players involved of the viability of this approach.