The UK government has awarded three firms a total of 2 million pounds ($2.7 million) in contracts to develop autonomous unmanned air and ground systems to help troops survey river crossing sites during battle.
The contract was awarded during the second phase of the Map the Gap competition, organized by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, under the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Replacement for Manned Systems
The competition sought the input of academia and industry to help reduce loss of life “when surveying multiple crossing sites at the forward edge of the battle.”
Replacing manned reconnaissance with a “remote, beyond-line-of-sight system” will not only reduce the risk to life but also offer the “ability to survey multiple crossing sites in a far more timely and efficient manner,” an MoD statement said.
Currently, Royal Engineer reconnaissance troops are deployed to survey both banks of a river, which exposes them to danger and also “risks compromising the rest of the operation.”
More Choices for Battle Commanders
Unmanned reconnaissance provides more choices for commanders, allowing them to outmaneuver their opponents.
“Map the Gap, and the technology it showcases, has the potential to increase the tempo, scale, and accuracy of river crossing operations in the future,“ Colonel Sam Stuthridge said.
One of the three small and medium-sized companies awarded the contract, Digital Concepts Engineering Ltd, will develop “a low signature, autonomous unmanned air and ground system with a capability to deploy sensors to collect the desired gap measurements.”
Ultrabeam Limited offers an “autonomous and amphibious, kinematic survey vehicle” called Argonaut 2. Its artificial intelligence-run modular system includes, “LiDAR, Sonar, Current Profiler, and electric cone penetrometer.”
The third firm, ISS Aerospace, offers “a UAV rotorcraft equipped with 3-D photogram metric, EO/IR and downward viewing IR cameras, a Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) sensor, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Bathymetric/Topographic LiDAR.”