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Britain’s defense ministry is asking security contractors to design new autonomous systems that can be used to deliver supplies to ground forces.

Israel’s IAI developed the Rex infantry robot porter for such purposes. It autonomously accompanies units of soldiers and carries heavy loads.

As part of the UK Ministry of Defense Innovation Initiative, £3 million has been invested through the government Defence and Security Accelerator in the next stage of the Innovation Autonomy Challenge. Focusing on the challenging “last mile” of support, this Challenge aims to find innovative new ways of resupplying troops on the front line and will be led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

To reduce the risk to troops and improve efficiency, the UK aims to develop autonomous systems for unmanned delivery of combat supplies, drawing on the rapid progress of the private sector in the development of delivery drones and automated deliveries.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said in its statement on gov.uk:

“Making sure we use the latest technology to keep our personnel safe and have the kit they need is a key part of our £800 million innovation fund. We’re challenging industry and academia to work with us to design ground-breaking autonomous systems that will get supplies to the front line.”

“From laser weapons to autonomous vehicles, the MOD is working with small firms, academics, industry, and the new Defence Advisory Panel to find Twenty-first-century solutions to defence challenges.”

The Challenge is the latest stage in Defence’s investment in unmanned and autonomous systems.

The funding for this competition is focused on:

Airborne and ground-based unmanned systems to collect, transport and deliver supplies across challenging terrain; technology to enable those systems to operate more autonomously in the contested military environment; technology to autonomously manage logistics supply and demand in the tactical environment.

One of the aims of the Innovation Initiative is to streamline Defence’s work with industry from SME’s to multinationals: making clear what Defence needs from business, but also being open to imaginative and disruptive proposals from any source.