Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
Autonomy on the frontline: Last Mile challenge winners announced
Delivery drones and resupply robots are set to bring vital reinforcements to frontline troops.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) set industry and academia a challenge to design pioneering technology to get vital supplies to soldiers on the front line and the winners have now been chosen.
Part of MOD’s Innovation Initiative, and led by MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the contracts are worth around £3.5 million over 3 years.
Dstl, in partnership with industry and academia, delivers defence and security science and technology (S&T) research for MOD and other government departments and allied organisations, looking to find the best solutions to UK defence and security challenges of today and the future.
Supplying troops in challenging environments – often dubbed ‘the last mile’ – using unmanned technology may reduce risk and cost. As announced at last year’s Farnborough Airshow, Dstl is working with the US Department of Defense to accelerate and demonstrate the effective use of these new robotic and autonomous systems technologies, with UK troops testing prototypes by 2019.
Drawing on commercial technology and conceptual ideas, from online delivery systems to futuristic unmanned vehicles, more than 140 organisations from small and medium-sized enterprises to big defence companies submitted entries for the Last Mile challenge.
Winning ideas include autonomous hover-bikes, unmanned air and ground vehicles, novel means of autonomously loading and unloading, navigating and delivery ordering, management and control using ‘uber-like’ and other app-based technologies.
Twenty-five projects were chosen from organisations from the UK and worldwide with a total contract value for the 6-month first phase of almost £2 million to advance the technology towards a system solution for ‘tactical resupply in a box’. The subsequent year-long phase will then go on to produce demonstrator system prototypes of the concepts, including evaluation with the British Army in October 2018 as part of the Army’s Warfighter Experiment ‘Autonomous Warrior (Land)’ (AWE18), in addition to a potential demonstration in the US.
UK jobs will be created or secured from the project, with the majority of companies chosen being from Britain. The Innovation Initiative and £800 million Defence Innovation Fund aims to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, to find twenty-first century solutions to rapidly emerging threats.
Dstl’s lead for the challenge, Peter Stockel, said:
The number and quality of the entries for this competition was outstanding and the competition was fierce. We chose the best from across the proposals to enable the system solutions we want for prototype demonstration and evaluation. This was a fully open competition, with many of those down-selected happening to come from the UK. This illustrates the strength of our national capability and the benefit of recent investments in this important and rapidly developing technology sector. However, it was great to also be able to pick some great propositions from around the world. The brief is to rapidly demonstrate system solutions which aim to reduce the logistic burden on our Armed Forces, provide new operational capability and reduce casualties; so we’re pleased with the response and keen to see the potential capability benefits being assessed by our military during AWE18.
Dstl Media Enquiries
Media enquiries 01980 956845
Out of hours 07384 210107
Latest News from
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
Dstl unveils requirements for future anti-armour capabilities project17/05/2021 15:10:00
Dstl is working with the British Army, DE&S and industry partners to create the next generation of protection from armoured vehicles and other threats.
Meet Dstl's outstanding apprentice11/05/2021 15:38:00
Science and innovation are in the DNA of Annabel Nash, project support officer and winner of the Outstanding Apprentice of the Year accolade.
Dstl reaches milestone 1000th intellectual property report27/04/2021 12:10:00
On World IP Day (26 April 2021), the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory celebrated innovations such as the electronic pulse dart.
Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence Phase 2 Competition23/04/2021 09:25:00
Up to £3.6 million available to develop innovations to permit the coexistence of future offshore windfarms alongside UK air defence surveillance systems.
Dstl leads successful experiment to observe satellites docking22/04/2021 10:15:00
Data captured during the Phantom Echoes 2 project, headed by an international group of defence space scientists, will help improve performance and space safety.
AI and data science expansion for Dstl in the north07/04/2021 16:10:00
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is creating a new unit based at the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) in Newcastle.
Dstl chief executive steps down06/04/2021 14:20:00
Chief Operating Officer Doug Umbers is stepping into the role while a successor is sought.
Dstl unveils new Exploration Division31/03/2021 14:05:00
The new division will identify and accelerate transformative technologies, systems, concepts and strategies for defence and security.