Crave headed for Whitehall yesterday to drop by the Ministry of Defence, where Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies announced £2m of funding for a selection of defence projects taking blowing people up into the 21st century.
The MoD is inviting academic institutions and small/medium enterprises (SMEs) to get in touch, with a view to involving smaller concerns in the technological future of the UK military. There are five areas the MoD wishes to invest in, known as capability visions and outlined at the science.mod.uk Web site. Visitors to the site can use the Future Defence Plan as a guide to what the MoD is interested in, and can find out how to send in speculative suggestions.
These kick off with lightening the load and increasing protection of those in dismounted close combat -- that's Our Brave Lads to you and me -- possibly with some kind of automated mule to carry packs. Then there's an unmanned aerial concept, defence against cyberwar, and a lightweight but well-protected land vehicle. Finally, as if those uniforms weren't green enough, the MoD aims to cut down on the ecological impact of the military. One per cent of the UK's CO2 emissions are from the armed forces, with about half of that from the Royal Air Force's planes. Interestingly, all RAF aircraft are already certified to run on synthetic fuels -- the problem is getting that synthetic fuel.
The projects benefitting from funding and showcased today began with Mindsheet, which has had a cash injection to toughen up its nippy little Testudo robot. Team Stellar has been awarded £1.3m for its SATURN unmanned aircraft system, d3o is getting cash to develop intelligent helmet liners, and Teledyne is working to conquer brown-out. Finally, Swarm Systems are working on a swarm of co-operative micro unmanned aircraft. Click through our photos to find out more about these assorted ways of supporting our troops through advanced geekery, and see our own speculative suggestion...
As well as having a face and looking like ORAC off Blake's 7, the Portable Integrated Battlespace Bio-Detection unit spots biological weaponry threats in a portable form. Which is very clever indeed. Still, PIBBD? It's no SATURN, is it?
Here, a real-life Chinook pilot demonstrates the difficulty of landing a helicopter in a dust cloud. This is known as 'brown-out', which sounds like the reaction we'd have if we found ourselves in an Afghan war zone. The dust problem is conquered by Teledyne's microwave radar, which gives the pilot a three-dimensional view of the ground beneath them.
Here's our speculative suggestion for the front lines. It's a multi-purpose, multi-role, multi-theatre, multimedia marvel. It's a submarine, a tank and a helicopter, and like Crave, it runs on bacon sandwiches and mojitos. Codename: SubmaTankiCopter!