Part of Project Theseus, which is exploring the use of autonomous vehicles for last mile battlefield logistics, the £5m purchase consists of two separate contracts and builds on Dstl’s Autonomous ‘Last Mile’ Challenge. Three all-terrain Viking 6x6 wheeled UGVs will be delivered by Horiba Mira under a £2.3m deal. Arriving in summer 2020, the Vikings will each be capable of transporting 750kg of supplies to the frontlines.
Later in the year, Qinetiq will provide two Titan UGVs. The tracked vehicles consist of a modular system that can be tailored to different missions, including resupply, reconnaissance and combat.
"The systems were chosen as technology demonstrator prototypes for representative further field testing and data collection based on their state of development and the capabilities demonstrated during the Autonomous Last Mile Resupply (ALMRS) project," Dstl’s autonomy lead, Peter Stockel, told The Engineer.
Dstl will put all the UGVs through scientific and user trials in collaboration with the Combat Service Support Training and Development Unit (CSS TDU) based in Aldershot, alongside other British Army units.
These early acquisitions are part of a ‘de-risking strategy’ employed by the MOD to explore the capabilities and limitations of autonomous systems for frontline logistics. The UGVs’mobility, safety, vulnerabilities and maintenance requirements will all be tested over the coming months, before another Project Theseus competition is launched by the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) unit later in the year.
"Maintenance is one of the aspects we will be exploring during the planned trials to inform requirements development and setting for the potential Joint Tactical Autonomous Resupply/Replenishment programme," Stockel continued.
"Note that the systems being purchased are prototypes and therefore will not provide a definitive answer, they will however provide an early indication of the skills and facilities that will be required for their operational use."