Friday, 2 May 2008

MoD Grand Challenge: 'without challenge there is no solution'

The Ministry of Defence has challenged teams from UK universities and businesses to develop prototypes for the British Armed Forces' vehicles of tomorrow. The eleven finalists are competing to come up with unmanned aerial and ground vehicles which will be able to help ground troops detect a whole range of threats - e.g. snipers, IEDs, mines - just the kind of threats which the troops are coming up against every day in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Or as the MoD puts it: The challenge is to create a system with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment.
Or as one contestant said: it's a bit like Wacky Races
The vehicles being developed come with sophisticated communications, GPS and robotics equipment and have in-built sensors and scanners utilising the latest laser, infra-red, thermal imaging and video enhancing technologies.
The Grand Challenge Grand Finale will take place in the summer at the MoD's Fighting In Built-up Areas training centre at Copehill Down on Salisbury Plain. Here the contestants will fight it out on the streets of this Iraqi-style village against the very real weapons systems they've been challenged to counter.
And what does the winner get? Well, according to the Mod: kudos. The MoD does go on to say they will be presenting a trophy - the RJ Mitchell Trophy named after the designer of the iconic Spitfire - and of course there is also the possibility that the winning design may be taken forward into production.