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U.K. robot finalists announced

Fourteen teams to participate in U.K. Ministry of Defense Grand Challenge whose 2008 theme is urban warfare.

Copehill Down
Copehill Down in Wiltshire, England Crown Copyright/MOD 2007

The U.K. Ministry of Defense announced Monday that 14 of the 23 teams who applied have made it to the finals of its Grand Challenge.

The MOD Grand Challenge is a competition of robots similar to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge. The finalist teams range from universities to military contractors.

Coincidentally, both the U.S. DARPA Grand Challenge this November 3 and the U.K. MOD Grand Challenge this August 2008 will focus on the urban setting.

However, while the DARPA-sponsored challenge focuses on the autonomous vehicle, the MOD-sponsored challenge concentrates on the robot soldier.

The challenge put forth to would-be competitors for 2008 is to create an autonomous or semi-autonomous robot that can assist in military action in an urban setting.

Specifically, the robot must be inconspicuous and robust in addition to being able to "detect, identify, monitor and report the position of a wide range of threats within a complex military urban environment, including within individual buildings," according to the MOD Grand Challenge site.

The four types of challenges the robots will have to face will be: snipers, armed vehicles, armed foot soldiers and improvised explosive devices.

The challenge will take place at Copehill Down, a MOD training facility in Wiltshire, England, simulating the architecture and facilities of an actual town.