According to press release at Gov.UK the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded £2.5m to a consortium led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd to develop drone swarm technology. This announcement follows the recent allocation of £31m by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson into new mini-drones.
Named the ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ project is the largest single contract awarded by DASA yet. The funding will steer the project for around 20 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the final stage of development, which will ultimately be managed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). A swarm could support lower operating costs, greater system efficiency as well as increased resilience in the following areas:
- Situational awareness
- Medical assistance
- Logistics resupply
- Explosive ordnance detection and disposal
- Confusion and deception
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said that the MOD continues to invest in pioneering technology that enhances capability reduces risk to personnel while enabling better performance. With the UK Armed Forces seeking robotic solutions to provide a ‘Force-Multiplier’ effect of greater military capability delivered by fewer people and equipment the swarm system is one possible solution to this multiple domain requirement. It will cover larger areas of battle space more quickly at lower cost and reduced man hours while removing the operator from potentially harmful situations.
Following on from @LucyMasonDASA announcement @DPRTE today: The ‘Many Drones Makes Light Work’ project is the largest single contract awarded by DASA to date & #DASA has awarded £2.5m to @wearebluebear to develop swarm technology! https://t.co/ldtDrTKEzp @DefenceHQ @dstlmod pic.twitter.com/u0olznKSnG
— DASA (@DASAccelerator) March 28, 2019
Head of DASA Lucy Mason said, “I am delighted that defence funding has enabled the creation of collaboration from across industry sectors that will evaluate the latest thinking in swarming drone systems. We are committed to driving innovation through creating partnerships and collaboration, harnessing the best ideas and innovative thinking for UK defence and security.”
Dstl Project Technical Lead, Antony Grabham said, “The Phase 3 competition requirements were deliberately very challenging, as we wanted to drive rapid innovation and encourage imaginative solutions. Enabled by an open systems architecture approach, the industry team is focused on developing an underpinning command and control and information management architecture to maximise the swarm’s ability to gather and share battle-winning information.”
Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, a world leader in autonomous system solutions, will act as the consortia lead and system integrator, with IQHQ, Plextex, Airbus and the University of Durham as part of the contracted team. Each organisation will contribute to the team in this 18-month ‘integration concept evaluation’ phase which will culminate in live flight demonstrations to the military.
Managing Director, Blue Bear Systems, Ian Williams-Wynn added, “The ability to deploy a swarm of low cost autonomous systems delivers a new paradigm for battlefield operations. During this project we will deploy next generation autonomy, machine learning, and AI to reduce the number of operators required, the time it takes to train them, and the cognitive burden on any operator during active operations.”
Blue Bear Systems offer customers unmanned systems specialising in autonomy, unmanned systems and flight/vehicle management and control software. Blue Bear have a wide portfolio of products developed by their pioneering team and offer an end-to-end Managed Service for UAVs of different classes (17grams to 50tonnes) and types (fixed wing, rotary wing, morphing wing, lighter-than-air) launched from unprepared ground or even launched from a rail onboard.