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. …
continued on Wired.com.