Resupply drones tested in largest ever British Army robot exercise


UK troops are testing over 70 examples of technology including drones for enhanced surveillance and resupplying in the battlefield

The four-week Autonomous Warrior experiment at Salisbury Plains, Wiltshire will last four weeks and test a range of prototype unmanned aerial and autonomous ground vehicles that aim to reduce the danger to troops during combat. The exercise will finish with a battlegroup experiment in a simulated operational environment.

The experiment involves 200 personnel, including troops from the Royal Tank Regiment Battle Group, the US Army, Royal Marines, RAF and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), as well as industrial partners and academia.

One of the key areas being looked at is “autonomous last mile resupply”. According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), the last mile represents the extremely dangerous final approach to the combat zone and is crucial to ensuring soldiers have the food, fuel and ammunition to keep them alive.

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “Our troops now have the chance to test out a huge range of robotic kit in what will be the biggest exercise of its kind in our history. This equipment could revolutionise our Armed Forces, keeping them safe and giving them the edge in an increasingly unstable world.”

Earlier this year MoD announced that five bids were to be involved in the Autonomous Warrior exercise for as part of its Autonomous Last Mile Resupply project. The bids are being led by: Animal Dynamics, Barnard Microsystems , Fleetonomy, HORIBA MIRA, and QinetiQ.

The airborne technologies being trialled include Animal Dynamics’ autonomous powered paragliders and a vertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle-based system being developed by Barnard Microsystems and Cranfield University.

Autonomous powered paragliders are one of the technologies being developed to resupply troops (Image: Banard Microsystems)

In addition, QinetiQ, Hull University, Malloy Aeronautics, MilRem Robotics, Roke Manor Research, Oxbotica, IQHQ and Aberystwyth University are developing an integrated highly-automated logistic system for the program, which according to the MoD uses autonomous hoverbikes and advanced unmanned ground vehicles.

The MoD is to spend £800 million through its Defence Innovation Fund following the exercise to support developing the ideas further.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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