Successful test for autonomous vehicles with sensors

The use of autonomous unmanned systems to explore and survey areas for chemical and radiological material has come a step closer to reality.

The successful Hybrid Area Reconnaissance and Survey (HARS) a field trial was conducted to demonstrate the concept of this cutting-edge research.

The technology concept could help keep the troops safe, improve efficiency and the United Kingdom armed forces in the future an operational advantage.

HARS study

This project is a collaboration between the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the larger Department of Defense (MOD) and industry.

Dstl‘s HARS The lead scientist on the study, Andy Martin, said:

The aim of this trial was to test the feasibility of the concept and the maturity of the technology. This technology offers an innovative approach that could significantly transform military capabilities in the future by reducing danger to soldiers and acting as a force multiplier. It’s quite an exciting thing to be involved with.

Some of the key challenges associated with the system are reducing the cognitive load on staff and using sensors designed to be operated manually by staff, and applying sufficient automation in the system to allow this to be done remotely and remotely can be done autonomously.

Vehicles on Salisbury Plain

Dstl Lead Operational Analyst Emma said:

We know that autonomy could be useful for completing repetitive tasks that put people at risk, and we can free them from that risk.

It’s been nice to actually see it in practice, moving around the field and showing that this is a place where if we keep working at it we could make real progress and do things very differently to them are done now.

The platform used in the experiment was the recently developed concept demonstrator, which consisted of an unmanned ground vehicle (Viking) with a chemical and radiological sensor payload:

  • 2 mass spectrometers to identify deposited chemicals on the ground
  • 2 vapor sensors to detect volatile chemicals
  • a gamma ray spectrometer to detect and identify radiological hazards
Scientists review the technology

Adding this sensor technology to a modular ‘pallet’ means it is more scalable and less expensive as it can then be mounted on the appropriate platform as needed.

The trial took place over 5 weeks on Salisbury Plain and involved Soldiers from FALCON Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment (C-CBRN) conducting consecutive trials to compare the concept to the performance of a manned system.

14 Troop Leader, FALCON Squadron, Sebastian said:

This study is important because it’s working with future technologies so hopefully we’ll have more time on target, less risk to personnel, and better visibility into whatever’s there.

HORIBA MIRA Chief Engineer Andy Maloney said:

This was a great example of that MODIndustry and end users work together with the expertise of Dstl and the stakeholders who are able to influence the systems we develop. The adaptability of the Vikings UGV provides an excellent basis for the development of new payloads and novel autonomous behaviors.

Learn more about Dstl‘s work, including our autonomy and robotics capabilities and how to work with us.

Scientists review the technology

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