Army logistics arm trials uncrewed ground vehicles

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has been assessing the potential use of autonomous systems for resupply operations in the British Army’s logistics division.

Two uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) systems from HORIBA MIRA and QinetiQ were purchased by Dstl in March 2020 under contracts collectively valued at £5 million.

HORIBA MIRA’s Viking is a 6-wheeled tracked vehicle is capable of operating at 50 kilometres per hour (kph) even in electric mode.

The vehicle uses advanced AI-based autonomy, based on visual terrain recognition, to enable GPS-denied navigation, terrain perception and object recognition. It can carry up to 600kg of supplies.

QinetiQ’s Titan UGV comprises a tracked system based around a modular mission system software architecture, employing LIDAR - a remote sensing technology using lasers - and stereo vision as the primary means to detect its environment.

The vehicle is powered by a hybrid electric engine with a lead acid battery and has a top speed of 20kph with a load capacity of up to 750kg.

“During the trials we are conducting we are assessing mobility, to understand if they can get to the dismounted soldiers; autonomy – how well they navigate; and to understand the limitations of the technology,” said Guy Powell, Dstl principal technical authority.

The Dstl trials will fully test the machines’ capabilities to increase the understanding of the potential of UGV systems and understand how they will integrate with the wider defence logistics capability.

“If there is a machine that can do what a human can but take personnel from harm’s way, that’s a fantastic thing,” said equipment support Sergeant Major Dan Brown. “The concept of resupply is critical. Troops can’t fight without water, food or ammunition. And these platforms are very good. It is absolutely realistic to deploy them in the near future.”

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