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UK MoD seeks technologies to enhance urban UAS operations

Royal Air Force UAS
Illustration. Royal Air Force photo

The UK defense ministry is seeking ideas on how to improve usability of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in challenging and complex urban operations.

Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) have made up to £900,000 available for successful proposals that can help the defense ministry overcome three particular challenges.

The first challenge is the development of an optimized UAS suitable for use in urban environments.

The second challenge is to develop a human-controlled lethal payload that could integrate with a platform outlined in the first challenge.

The third challenge is to demonstrate a full UAS with an integrated payload, bringing together the separate elements of challenges 1 and 2.

Proposals can incorporate artificial intelligence elements for assisting in flight and weapon usage, but the system must remain fully under human control throughout the system’s use, it was noted. Specifically, the AI should not control the activation of the payload.

Technical details released in the RFP indicate that the entire system should weigh no more than 10 kg with a payload of at least 1.5 kg, and have the capability to transition from flight in an open urban area to inside a building. It should also be able to fly for at least 20 minutes.

The ministry added it is looking for ideas that reduce the mental strain on operators and to improve performance, “but solutions must ensure that they remain under full human control at all times.”

“It is envisaged that these innovations could in future contribute to a new capability that can remove service personnel and military dogs from complex and dangerous urban warfare situations where their lives are put at significant risk,” the defense ministry said.

Responses to the RFP, which can be found here, are due on October 15, 2020.