Bedford-based Blue Bear Systems Research has been selected by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to lead a consortium, that includes Airbus, to develop new drone swarm technology.
The project, dubbed ‘many drones make light work’, is being run under the auspices of the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). The initiative has enough funding to support roughly 20 unmanned aerial systems endeavours, and altogether has a budget of £2.5 million.
The MOD believes that drone swarm technology will lower operational costs and add to the general lethality of the service, as well as enhancing situational awareness and improve their ability to deliver medical assistance.
They believe that the technology can “provide a ‘Force-Multiplier’” effect, wherein the military complex can be improved by the use of swarm drone technology to increase military capability at a lower cost using fewer assets.
These projects will be managed by a separate MOD agency; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
Head of DASA Lucy Mason commented in a release: “[We are] delighted that defence funding has enabled the creation of a 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.
Blue Bear Systems and Drone Swarm Technology
Blue Bear Systems have said that the fund will allow them to deploy a swarm of cheap autonomous systems for military use that utilise machine learning and AI. They hope to reduce the number of people required to run these systems, significantly reducing their cost.
Blue Bear Systems MD Ian Williams-Wynn commented that this will allow them to operate “very complex swarm-based missions” which can be “performed simultaneously against single or multiple targets in a time sensitive and highly effective manner.”
At the moment systems using this tech require a high level of extra training that is not only time consuming, but carries a significant extra cost.
Antony Grabham the DSTL project technical lead commented that: “The winning consortium really highlights the best of UK Industry, showcasing how our world leading Small and Medium Enterprise Companies can be harnessed to deliver a transformation in military capability.”
“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.”
The British military is actively engaging with autonomous technology and regularly commits funding towards the technology.
Recently they ran a trial of different autonomous systems on the Salisbury Plain’s in the makeshift village of Copehill Down.