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UK MoD awards three new contracts for autonomous vehicle development

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded three contracts worth a combined GBP9 million (USD12.15 million) as part of its efforts to accelerate the development of autonomous capabilities for unmanned ‘last mile supply' vehicles, a spokesman for the MoD's equipment and support agency announced on 25 January.

The contracts, each worth GBP3 million, were awarded to Horiba Mira, Marlborough Comms, and Rafael following an evaluation process by the British MoD's Future Capability Group (FCG), part of the ministry's procurement arm.

The projects fall under the umbrella of Project Theseus, a programme by the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) agency to develop unmanned air and ground platforms for the delivery of critical supplies such as food, fuel, and ammunition in hostile environments.

More than 50 companies of various sizes participated in the competition. The MoD used what it calls a “novel [procurement] process” to downselect the three successful companies.

In addition to unmanned vehicle technology, work will seek to integrate an autonomous processing technology developed by Rafael into the last mile resupply process. This will include what the MoD likens to an Amazon-style interface for soldiers requiring resupply at the front.

Speaking to Janes at the International Armoured Vehicles conference on 26 January, an official linked to one of the selected companies elaborated on the envisioned process. A soldier in a combat zone will use a tablet to send a resupply request to a forward operating base. At the base the necessary supplies will be loaded into the vehicle; at present, this stage requires a human ‘in the loop' in order to ensure the delivery of the correct payload (for instance, a specific blood type for a battlefield casualty in critical condition).

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