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On 12 November the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the start of the nation’s biggest military robot exercise over the next four weeks on the Salisbury Plain Training Area.

The game-changing Autonomous Warrior experiment will test a range of over 70 prototype unmanned aerial and autonomous ground vehicles and systems, which aim to reduce the danger to troops during combat. The exercise will finish with a battlegroup experiment, in which the best ideas and products will be tested in the toughest of simulated operational environments.

One of the key areas it is set to test is autonomous resupply over the ‘last mile,’ which constitutes the extremely dangerous final approach to the combat zone and is crucial to ensuring soldiers have the food, fuel and ammunition to keep them alive.

Our troops now have the chance to test out a huge range of robotic kit in what will be the biggest exercise of its kind in our history. We’re always working with the brightest minds in Britain and across the world to see how they can support our military of the future, but now the frontrunners have the chance to prove what they can really do on a battlefield. This equipment could revolutionise our armed forces, keeping them safe and giving them the edge in an increasingly unstable world,” stated Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The exercise aims to test technologies in surveillance, long-range and precision targeting, enhanced mobility and the re-supply of forces, urban warfare and enhanced situational awareness. Overall there will be over 200 multi-national, cross-service personnel involved. The US Army, Royal Marines, RAF and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will join industry partners and academia in working alongside them in the exercise, which follows on from the hugely successful Unmanned Warrior series, in which the Royal Navy demonstrated autonomous systems diving, swimming and flying together to engage in surveillance, intelligence-gathering and mine countermeasures.

Much of the focus of Autonomous Warrior will be on robotic solutions for ‘last mile’ resupply. (Photo: Crown copyright)

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