Video: Britain Plots Battle-Bot Future

By | March 6, 2009

Video: Britain Plots Battle-Bot Future

Britain’s military launched a new, robot-heavy Defence Technology Plan last week. And it’s packed with everything from morphing, unmanned copters to drone swarms to liquid armor.

One of the stars was the Future Protected Vehicle – a “lightweight vehicle designed to achieve the effectiveness and survivability of a main battle tank.” A Ministry of Defence video shows the FPV releasing a miniature spy drone to locate a target, before destroying the thing. It’s clearly similar to the Team Stellar entry which won the MoDs Grand Challenge robot competition last year. Team Stellar’s entry, “Sensing & Autonomous Tactical Urban Reconnaissance Network,” or “Saturn,” included a robotic ground vehicle with a small unmanned aircraft that were networked together. So it’s not surprising that one of the contracts announced as part of the plan is a £1.3m ($1.8m) deal for Team Stellar “to take their integrated Saturn system to the next level of capability.”

Two of the other Grand Challenge competitors also received contracts. Mindsheets is enhancing its Testudo, a small radio-controlled buggy for inspecting IEDs; the idea is to make it more rugged and user-friendly for battlefield use. Meanwhile, Swarm Systems is being funded to take their gaggle of co-operative, hovering micro-air vehicles to the next level.

Other plans are more ambitious. The Novel Air Concept is an unmanned aircraft capable of vertical take-off. If it works as proposed, it’ll have a proposed radius of action of a thousand kilometers, and be capable of operating in heavily defended airspace. The drone will be specifically tailored to carrying out strikes in urban environments, and will be able to deliver “novel payloads” — which may be MoD-speak for directed energy weapons. The aim is to produce a flying demonstrator within three years.

The Novel Air Concept may not end up looking anything like this artists impression, showing it as a stealthy, morphing craft with a retracting nose-propeller. But clearly, the designers have no lack of imagination. …

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7 thoughts on “Video: Britain Plots Battle-Bot Future

  1. Silkyray

    “It wasn’t a fair universe, nor a kind one. If there was a God, his love and forty-five cents would buy you coffee. No one seemed to be at the cosmic controls anymore. It was every man for himself, until SKYNET became alive and filled the void left by a seemingly disinterested God. Its vision was very controlled. The ultimate dream of man, carried out by one of man’s lowliest tools; eliminate evil men. But there was a touch of evil in all men, and SKYNET was having trouble separating the worst of them out. So the totality of humanity, with all of its biologic messiness, wasn’t wanted. And to this machine-god, forgiveness just did not compute. Only cold retribution for the sins of the past.”

    – Frakes, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

  2. Tony

    Anyone else notice the simulated city in the attacks is obviously Middle Eastern? I find that interesting in and of itself.

  3. Silkyray

    I don’t find it interesting, I find it obvious. What I would find interesting is if the simulated city looked like suburbia. Now that would worry me.

  4. Tony

    Ah, that is actually a good point, Silkray. Wouldn’t it be much easier on our governments if they used robotic troops to whip the masses into line rather than risk mutiny of human troops refusing to attack their own people? Another topic for another time maybe. But, I think the simulation designers could have created a more generic scenario instead of making the war zone quite obviously focused on a supposed Middle Eastern enemy.

  5. Silkyray

    Look at it form this point of view. They are selling this to Military Generals. They folks eat, sleep, and breath war on the middle eastern enemy. If I was developing this I would want to show them exactly what its meant to do and where they can use it. That way the Generals immediately identify usefulness and invest into the project. Think niche market. This is not just any Autonomous War Bot Factory it is an Autonomous Middle Eastern War Bot Factory.

  6. Cheng

    Well the middle east has nothing to worry about then. When the MOD gets involved with any project, it’s doomed to expensive and embarassing failure.

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