This is SATURN (although SATAN may be a better name), it is the winning entry in the “Grand Challenge” competition, launched by the MoD in 2006 to produce a vehicle capable of identifying threats encountered by UK troops on current operations.
Entrants could be autonomous flying or ground vehicles capable of identifying threats such as marksmen, vehicles mounted with heavy weapons, IED's, roadside bombs and armed militia.
Team Stellar led by Julia Richardson,representing members Stellar Services Ltd, Blue Bear Systems, Cranfield University, SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems Ltd, TRW Conekt, and Marshall Specialist Vehicles - who make Bomb Disposal Robots and remote controlled diggers, finally beat off six finalists (out of 23 original entries) to win the R J Mitchell trophy (he designed the Spitfire) . This is described as integrated system with one high flying and one mini UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), and a UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) with a control station fusing data from visual, thermal and radar sensors.
Baroness and ex MP Ann Taylor was ecstatic .. "It is this type of vision and dedication which makes the United Kingdom a world leader in science and technology." she said and then carried on .. "in universities, schools and even garden sheds across the nation."
Team Swarm consisting of Swarm Systems, the University of Essex, the University of Surrey, Orrcam, Ardware and Scazon was awarded the prize for the “most innovative idea” after designing a multiple autonomous quadrator (flat helicopter with four rotors) called Owls, capable of flying in swarms, allowing them to view the area from all angles using high resolution visual cameras.
Team Thales despite their name had a solid academic base University of Reading, the University of Bristol, CARVEC, Ryland Research and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET), which included three schools Chilton Trinity Technology College, Woking High and Amersham School.
They were awarded a prize for “best use of national talent” for their use of a mini helicopter fitted with daylight and thermal imaging technology alongside two custom built ground vehicles.
Will they be sniffing out the Taliban or nests of Russian Spetnatz troops in Georgia in the Ukraine any time soon... ? Well they don't look really battle ready yet Sir.
Meanwhile can we have some more helicopters ...and a few trained pilots, crews, mechanics ? New troop transport aircraft and tankers to replace the 42 year old ones we struggle with, maybe some armoured land rovers, the new Nimrod AIWACS to replace the 37 year old ones we daren't re-fuel ... and possibly a clear idea what the fuck we are doing in Basra and Helmand.
PS : For those interested there is a fascinating site run by amateur UAV enthusiasts here .. here is a pic from Thomas in France from his UAV ... a good Picasa public library of his pics is here.
Here is an unexpected use of UAV's during the Olympics