Experiment to Automate the ‘Last Mile’
At the Royal United Services Institute Land Warfare Conference in London on 20 June the UK MoD launched Autonomous Warrior (Land), which it describes as “a game-changing experiment,” – one that is “set to redefine warfare.”
Autonomous Warrior, the 2018 Army Warfighting Experiment, will push the boundaries of technology and military capability in the land environment. One of the key areas it is set to test is the autonomous last mile resupply. The ‘last mile’, which represents the extremely dangerous final approach to the combat zone, is crucial to ensuring soldiers have the food, fuel and ammunition to keep them alive.
The experiment will test a range of prototype unmanned aerial and ground cargo vehicles which aim to reduce the danger to troops during combat. The four-week exercise, during which a British battlegroup will test and evaluate the effectiveness of robotic and autonomous systems on the battlefield, will commence on 12 November.
“Autonomous Warrior sets an ambitious vision for Army operations in the 21st Century as we integrate drones, unmanned vehicles and personnel into a world-class force for decades to come,” commented the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster.
As well as demonstrating the vehicles during the ‘last mile,’ Autonomous Warrior will also develop capabilities in surveillance which will greatly improve the effectiveness of long-range and precision targeting by service personnel. The exercise is the result of a large collaboration between the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, US Army, MoD, the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory and around 50 industry participants.
Giving the closing address to the RUSI conference, the new Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith, will stress the need for British forces to work with their allies not just in the battlefield, but also in the virtual world. He will warn that “we live in exceptionally unstable times and that the world has never been more unpredictable.”
Autonomous Warrior will play an integral role within the £800 million Defence Innovation Fund, which supports ground-breaking ideas aimed at transforming both defence and British industry. The land-based exercise follows on from the successful Unmanned Warrior series, in which the Royal Navy demonstrated autonomous systems diving, swimming and flying together to engage in surveillance, intelligence-gathering and mine countermeasures.