Ministry of Defence
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Sending in the probes - latest unmanned vehicles on show

Sending in the probes - latest unmanned vehicles on show

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE News Release (055/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 11 March 2009

Mini surveillance robots and flying reconnaissance vehicles might sound like props from the latest sci-fi film. But advances in science and technology mean they are moving from the realm of science fiction to reality - making a difference on military operations today.

A range of unmanned vehicles were on display today at a major event to mark National Science and Engineering Week, an annual series of events celebrating science, engineering and technology and their importance in our lives.

Organised by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) and Defence Manufacturers Association (DMA), the event revealed how unmanned vehicles - in the air, on the ground, and under water - are increasingly being used for civil and military purposes. From the disposal of unexploded bombs on UK soil, to performing surveillance and reconnaissance on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned vehicles of all shapes and sizes are increasingly helping people to perform a multitude of tasks.

Opening the event at the Honourable Artillery Company in London, the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said:

"The MOD and Defence Industry are working together to exploit new technologies that can help and protect our Armed Forces. In places like Afghanistan, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are already giving troops the vital information they need to stay one step ahead of the enemy.

"Today's event celebrates the vital work of scientists, engineers and inventors who have helped cement the UK's position as a world leader in science and research. Their discoveries are reaping benefits for the Armed Forces and civil society, helping to improve and protect lives."

Opening the event, Mr Davies announced some of the findings of an investigation into the UK's military requirements for Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), which has been undertaken by the MOD in partnership with the defence industry. The investigation demonstrates the integral role that UAS have played, and are expected to play in future, on UK military operations and will inform the MOD's development of a long term strategy for the use of UAS to meet military requirements up to 2023.

Industry exhibitors at the event were joined by Armed Forces personnel who are benefiting from the latest cutting edge technologies in the field. These included personnel from 32 and 47 Regiments Royal Artillery and RAF UAV specialists, who are using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as the 'Hermes 450' supplied by Thales UK, Lockheed Martin's 'Desert Hawk' and Reaper (supplied by General Atomics- Aeronautical Systems Inc / Cobham) to perform essential reconnaissance roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Providing commanders on the ground with essential intelligence, these systems are delivering battle winning and lifesaving capabilities to our Armed Forces on operations. Advanced technology demonstrators were also on display such as BAE Systems' MANTIS and TARANIS Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Rear Admiral Rees Ward (Rtd), Director General of the Defence Manufacturers Association said:

"National Science and Engineering week is a time to celebrate and encourage the skills needed to support science and engineering in UK industry. Defence companies work at the forefront of technological innovation, employing 1,000s of scientists, engineers, graduates and apprentices.

"The companies supporting this event are leading examples in this field. The unmanned and autonomous systems on display represent the cutting edge of science and engineering that will provide both the UK's Armed Forces with the very best equipment now and in the future, and provide technological spin-offs into non-military applications as well."

Every year the UK Defence sector recruits many hundreds of science and engineering graduates. The MOD has a 13,000 strong workforce of engineers and scientists - forming the Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG). These specialists are involved at every stage from the research and development of new technologies through to their procurement and readiness for the front line. Indeed, the MOD has deployed more scientists to the front line in recent operations than at any time since the Second World War.

Specialists from the MOD work with the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) and their 'Go 4 SET' Scheme which aims to stimulate the interest of young people in Science, Engineering and Technology. The MOD also provides support to teachers to deliver GCSE curriculum content across eight core subjects, including science, via the free, online Defence Dynamics teaching resource. Covering themes as diverse as mapping, flooding, genetic engineering and survival skills, lessons not only apply theory in the real world but also encourage students to debate the moral issues behind the introduction of new technology.

Notes to Editors

1. Exhibitors at today's event included: AeroVironment, Inc, BAE Systems, Dstl, EDO MBM Technology Ltd, Honeywell Defence and Space, Lockheed Martin UK, Mindsheet Ltd, MBDA Missile Systems, Ministry of Defence, Northrop Grumman UK, QinetiQ Group PLC, Rockwell Collins UK Ltd, SAIC, SELEX GALILEO, Sonic Communications (Int) Ltd, Swarm Systems Ltd, Team Reaper (GA-ASI / Cobham), Team Stellar, Thales UK, The Shadow Robot Company Ltd.

2. National Science and Engineering Week is an opportunity for people of all ages, areas and organisations to take part in science, engineering and technology activities. It is coordinated by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) in partnership with the Engineering and Technology Board, and funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Please visit

3. Further information about the Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) is available at . Further information about the Defence Dynamics teaching resource, as well as comprehensive lesson plans, teacher notes and student worksheets are available at

4. A number of defence industry companies will be interacting with schools across the UK during National Science and Engineering Week. BAE Systems' engineering roadshow for young people will visit schools in Brough, East Yorskhire, and QinetiQ's 'Lab in a Lorry' will demonstrate scientific experiments to school children in the Portsmouth area. Rolls-Royce will be running a series of science-based activities for Cub Scouts in Bristol, Derby, Sunderland and Barnoldswick to encourage them to complete the Cub Scout Scientist Badge.

5. For further information about the DMA please go to and for information on the SBAC please visit

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