COLLABORATION

Partnership pioneers autonomous vehicle for extreme military operations

SOURCE: Graham Robb/Shutterstock
Defence departments the world over have long partnered with universities to get the latest cutting-edge knowledge and innovative thinking.

At this year’s Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair (DSEI 2019), there has been all manner of new and innovative technologies unveiled for the defence market.

Defence departments the world over have long partnered with universities to get the latest cutting-edge knowledge and innovative thinking that comes from research departments and leading experts. When great minds come together, big problems can be solved.

That is exactly what happened when Special Forces vehicle developer, Supacat, teamed up with the University of Exeter on their latest project that was unveiled to the crowds at DSEI 2019.

DSEI 2019
The “Technology Demonstrator” has the option of being manned or riding entirely autonomously.

The UK partnership is the very first to launch an autonomous hybrid vehicle for extreme off-road operations in combat zones.

The “Technology Demonstrator”, as it has been named, has the option of being manned or riding entirely autonomously when in dangerous situations. According to a press release from Supacat, it has been developed to keep pace with battlefield logistical requirements on extreme terrain and unpredictable routes. It is its versatility that makes it so useful in tough conditions.

“It is in Supacat’s DNA to tailor its platforms and solutions to each customer’s requirements. Our approach uses a common electric drivetrain, each of which can be customised through different powering options depending on mission, range, payload and operating environment,” explains Steve Austen, Engineering Director of Supacat parent, SC Group.

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“We are exploring, developing and incorporating autonomous technologies in a way that will permit the level of collaboration and control from human to vehicle or from vehicle to vehicle to be altered depending on the complexity of the work being undertaken. Allowing vehicles to be ‘optionally manned’ will remove users from the `dull, dirty or dangerous` tasks wherever possible and create a real operational advantage for the end-user.”

Just like most military equipment these days, the vehicle comes with some cool tech features to keep its users as safe as possible.

DSEI 2019
The vehicle has terrain detection and response system for enhanced mobility and optimised endurance.

The “optionally manned” demonstrator utilises:

  • A terrain detection and response system for enhanced mobility and optimised endurance
  • An object categorisation and response system for obstacle clearance or avoidance during technical off-road driving, which can be tailored to the capabilities of the vehicle, driver or a remote operator
  • A path planning and motion behaviour system using simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) for the navigation of lead and follow on vehicles.

Prospective customers have been invited to test out the kit at Supacat’s facility in Devon. The team is actively seeking new missions and more extreme circumstances to test the mettle of this military-grade vehicle.