More than £2 million boost from government for regional defence firms

Animal Dynamics Stork Drone

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)  has awarded 21 contracts worth a total £2.1 million to boost how autonomous vehicles and systems operate in challenging environments.

DASA, on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), launched the Autonomy in a Dynamic World competition last year seeking proposals for innovative solutions and novel techniques to improve the way autonomous systems work in conditions such as rugged landscapes, dense vegetation, varying wind speeds and sea states – and man-made conditions such as congested and contested electromagnetic spaces.

The call also sought solutions to the Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) problem – the effective integration of humans, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics into military systems.

All these factors affect the military effectiveness of current autonomous technologies.

Project manager Helen Mullender said: “The work being funded is to mature autonomous systems with the capability to operate on demand, under all conditions that may be encountered.

“Military operations are undertaken in all kinds of challenging environment. The inclusion of autonomous systems in these operations will demand their ability to operate effectively and efficiently regardless of the environment.”

DASA delivery manager Laurence Bickerton added: “In society, we are becoming increasingly dependent and trusting of unmanned, autonomous and semi-autonomous systems to operate our machinery, cars and even our home deliveries.

“Similarly, in defence, autonomous systems are driving a revolutionary change in military operations, transforming the battlespace with improved intelligence and mobility.”

The competition is funded through the MOD’s Chief Scientific Adviser’s Research Programme’s Autonomy Incubator project that aims to: Identify and develop underpinning research and technologies to support the development and fielding of unmanned systems across defence which may be matured through the Dstl Autonomy Programme and other Research and Development programmes.

Organisations that have been funded include many from across the region. These include, Oxford-based Animal Dynamics, which had three proposals funded, Milton Keynes-base Autonomous Devices Ltd (2 proposals funded), Frazer-Nash Consultancy which has offices in Cheltenham and Basingstoke, Nuneaton-based Horiba Mira and Bristol-based Zenotech Ltd.

DASA is the MOD’s innovation hub. finds and funds exploitable technology to give Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and UK security a strategic advantage over adversaries while supporting the nation’s prosperity. The organisation works with scientists from Dstl, academia, and industry to rapidly develop these new technologies.