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Supporting military logistics in innovative ways has become imperative in many countries. The UK has been developing drone delivery capabilities for its armed forces, transforming the delivery of logistics in land and maritime operations. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has been working with other government agencies to develop drones and unmanned ground robots with autonomous ‘deliver to order’ capability for frontline military logistics support.

A new cross-government collaboration involves the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Department for International Development (DFID) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with experts from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) leading the partnership as part of the MOD’s Innovation Autonomy Challenge.

Within the framework of the Autonomous Last Mile Resupply (ALMRS) Phase 2, worth £3.8m over the next 12 months, five winning consortiums build prototypes of their winning designs for initial testing and evaluation this autumn.

Several intriguing ideas are reflected in this initiative. One of the participants is Animal Dynamics’ project to develop autonomous powered paragliders, informed by evolutionary biomechanics. By studying how animals move, the firm aims to achieve significant improvements in the performance and efficiency of vehicles in water, air, and ground travel.

The autonomously powered paragliders are designed to transport medical equipment, food, fuel and vehicle parts up to 300km at speeds of up to 70km/h from a forward operating base (FOB) to a pre-set GPS location on the military frontline.

Delivering logistical payloads to hazardous environments is also the focus of the ALMRS project entry involving Barnard Microsystems and Cranfield University, who are developing a vertical take-off and landing UAV designed to handle rough terrain. The InView UAV, is a twin-engine unmanned aircraft with a dry weight of just under 20kg. Featuring a 5m wingspan and composed of lightweight composite materials, the InView is modular in design – meaning it can be transported in a small vehicle and parts can be easily replaced – and is powered by four stroke internal combustion engines that run on high-energy-density gasoline.