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Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) equipped with cutting-edge sensors to detect ground mines and explosives are being researched by UK scientists and engineers at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and could alter the face of land warfare.
Their research could see mined areas cleared faster and more safely, ramping up protection for Armed Forces personnel as well as civilians.
Maintaining freedom of movement and mobility at pace for the Armed Forces is vital for safety and mission effectiveness and this is significantly reduced by surface laid mines, explosives or buried munitions, says the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
“We’ve all seen the threat to safety and military advancement that mines can still pose,” said UK Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge. “The UK and our NATO allies are spearheading research into this technology, which has the potential to not only enhance protection for our Service Personnel, but also speed up battlefield progress.”
“Converging the latest drone and sensing technologies could give us the ability to detect and destroy deadly mines and explosives without putting lives at risk,” added Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Chief Delivery Officer, Matt Chinn. “It could also give us the ability to clear mined areas better, quicker and cheaper – allowing military operations or humanitarian missions to proceed.”
DSTL teamed with industry partners to undertake trials with NATO allies in Spain and at the Suffield Research Centre in Canada. Advances in UAS and low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) sensing have led to the development of innovative concepts for explosive threat detection by combining these technologies and systems.
The two-week NATO trials program aimed to give international and academic organisations the opportunity to showcase their UAS-mounted sensor concepts and to share ideas, knowledge, and solutions. The resulting experiments demonstrated a range of modified, novel and bespoke sensing technologies.
The UK system performed well under the trials, and the intention is to use the results of the assessments to prioritise the next stages of research and development. As part of an overarching research project commissioned by MOD’s Chief Scientific Advisor, it will be developed over the next decade into the front-line command funded equipment programs, such as the Ground Area Reconnaissance and Assurance (GARA) project.