Animal Dynamics, the British technology start-up and an Oxford University spin-out, has secured £6m in new funding to build autonomous military robots. Kindred Capital and Australian investment company Tanarra Capital were among the investors in a Series A funding round, which was led by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI).
The fund raised will be used to develop future products including its two current projects Skeeter, a miniature drone and an autonomous delivery drone known as Stork both inspired by design elements from nature.
Skeeter is a R&D project to build a small-scale Unmanned Aerial System (“UAS”), which Animal Dynamics is undertaking with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, or Dstl, which is part of the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
The Skeeter design takes inspiration from the body and movements of a dragonfly like agility in flight, high endurance and glide. The flapping wing propulsion has been chosen, as it enables gliding, is quiet, and is highly efficient making them particularly good at tolerating turbulent air.
The initial use for Skeeter is as a short-range surveillance platform, for situational awareness – with the ability to operate in high wind conditions and fly longer distances on lower power than existing small UAS. Skeeter is designed to extend the capability of small UAS, resulting in a vehicle that can operate in a greater range of conditions. Skeeter could be used in search and rescue, surveying, and agriculture as well.
Its vitals comprise-Length: 120mm, weight: less than 50g, noise: about the same as a dragonfly and speed: 45 km/h with multiple composites for materials used.
Animal Dynamics is also developing a range of unmanned aerial delivery vehicles called Stork, based on powered paraglide wing technology. It includes a range of vehicles:
ST 50 capable of carrying 30 kg and ST 150, capable of carrying 100kg. Further vehicles are planned, capable of carrying loads up to 3000kg.
Each system constitutes a canopy, a vehicle with landing gear and a power unit. The 50kg vehicle is powered by an electric motor. The larger vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines. Each unit has an autonomous guidance system, communications and camera.
- Short take-off and landing capability
- Autonomous guidance and navigation in both GPS and GPS-denied environments
- Low noise and radar signature, and can glide silently to target
- Long endurance, high efficiency, long range ST150 range over 100km; ST1800 over 300km
- Cost of the vehicle per kg delivery capacity is <1/10th of the capital cost of all other delivery systems; running costs are lower still
- The canopy is damage tolerant, and the vehicle has a graceful failsoft mode, gliding to a gentle landing in the rare event of catastrophic engine or systems failures
- It packs down small, is portable on a standard NATO pallet
- Vehicle mass between 20% and 30% of the potential payload mass.
- Capable of travelling 1- 300km at 70 km/h to a pre-set GPS location, depending on size (larger vehicles travel a greater distance)
- Stork could be used to supply medical equipment, food, fuel and vehicle parts from a Forward Operating Base to front-line users.