HORIBA MIRA has confirmed the award of a £3 million contract from the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s Future Capability Group to re-supply front line U.K. forces using an intelligent just-in-time ordering capability delivered by unmanned air and ground vehicles as an integral part of battlefield management applications.
The use of unmanned systems will enhance the speed, efficiency and safety of combat missions, and manpower can be better deployed in combat roles. This aim is consistent with the ambition set out in the March 2021 Defence Command Paper, Defence in a Competitive Age, which envisages self-sufficient Brigade Combat Teams able to meet demand by drawing on their own dedicated logistics and combat support units.
Air & Ground Intelligent Logistics Environment (AGILE) is distinct in the make-up of the companies selected by HORIBA MIRA to deliver the end-to-end solution; rather than large defense contractors, all of AGILE’s expert partners are small, U.K.-based innovators with cutting-edge hardware and software technologies that have the capacity to deliver HM Forces with a competitive advantage.
The companies supporting AGILE include automation specialists, Blue Prism, mesh communications experts, DTC Limited and three consortium members providing unmanned aerial systems, including Malloy Aeronautics, Skylift UAV and Vulcan UAV.
HORIBA MIRA is leading the project, with responsibility for integration of the robotic and autonomous battlespace management systems and provision of its VIKING six-wheel Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV). VIKING can carry payloads of 750kg at speeds of up to 50km/h with high manoeuvrability achieved through its 6-wheel independent suspension and 4-wheel steering. VIKING is powered by a diesel electric parallel hybrid powertrain which delivers 20 km of silent operation and a total range of up to 200km.
VIKING’s highly advanced autonomous operation has been built on HORIBA MIRA’s MACE system that has been in continuous development for 15 years. MACE uses vision-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) for terrain and object recognition, for mapping, routing and obstacle avoidance even in GPS-denied environments.
The AGILE solution is hosted on a single mesh network linking multiple air and ground platforms, and is directed through HORIBA MIRA’s battlespace management software which can be controlled by a single user.
This work builds upon previous projects that MIRA has completed with the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) developing new technology for Autonomous Last Mile Resupply (ALMRS) and Joint Tactical Autonomous Resupply and Replenishment (JTAAR). It is a continuation of support for getting the latest technology into the hands of HM Armed Forces through the Defence Transformation Fund.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to capture the ingenuity of a number of leading U.K.-based companies, and advanced AI-based autonomy that we previously developed with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Defence & Security Accelerator, to create a rapid development and experimentation programme to give the British Army durable advantage through emerging technologies,” said Andy Maloney, Chief Engineer for UGVs and Defence at HORIBA MIRA.
“Our team used a dynamic commercial approach to stimulate industry and draw in over 50 companies who have key technologies in this area,” James Gavin, Head FCG at DE&S, added. “They then worked with pace and agility to identify three suppliers offering potential solutions from a vast amount of industry specialists.”