News story

UK and US look to robotics help for ‘last mile’

The UK and the US are speeding up the impact that robotic and autonomous systems can have on resupplying their armies by committing to a joint programme, announced UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne and US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall today.

The final stage of transportation of supplies to troops in challenging environments, often dubbed ‘the last mile’, can be particularly lengthy and dangerous for those involved – and it is in situations like this that both countries feel robotics can make the process more efficient in terms of cost, time and risk.

A series of trials of autonomous systems, including unmanned air and ground vehicles, will begin in October next year, with an autonomous truck convoy demonstration kicking things off at the US Army Warfighting Assessment trials.

Alongside trials, calls to industry and academia will be made to identify further test technologies, with work set to culminate in a final trial event in October 2019, where a wide range of selected technologies will be brought together in one, integrated system.

Speaking at Farnborough International Airshow, Dunne and Kendall outlined how science and technology teams in both countries have been working together for six months to develop innovative proposals which can benefit the defence industry and beyond.

Defence Minister Philip Dunne said:

Defence Science and Technology collaboration has been a core part of the special relationship with the US for over 75 years. Robotics and autonomous systems offer opportunities to operate in fundamentally different ways. This collaboration on assured resupply will put our nations at the forefront of future developments – allowing us to transform our approach to military logistics.

US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall said:

This joint effort deepens bilateral defense Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation. The Third Offset is about insuring the competitive advantage of US forces and our allies and partners over the coming decades. Our collaboration will help grow our advantage in autonomous systems and human-machine collaboration and will help drive interoperability between US and UK systems into the future.

The move comes after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon challenged their departments to drive a collaborative approach on innovation between the US and UK last October.

Notes to Editors

  • For the UK MOD, the work is being led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in partnership with British Army staffs. In addition, the British Army is supplying personnel and equipment in support of the demonstrations and experiments.

  • For the US DoD, the work is led by the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The US is also providing personnel and equipment in support of the demonstrations and experiments.

  • The programme will last for up to four years.