ECA Group is to join the TURMA consortium which, under the European Commission’s call for tenders process, is to investigate and help shape future development of robotic and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) – specifically in the area of Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T).
TURMA, which derives from Teaming Unmanned Robotic Manned Architecture, brings together 24 organisations, including small and large companies and public institutions, from nine countries. Coordinated by the Belgian group John Cockerill, its objective is to limit the dangers to which troops deployed in operational theatres are exposed, while improving their effectiveness on the ground. ECA’s contribution in the project will focus on providing its recognised expertise in the planning and supervision of robotic missions. Building on its experience in drone systems, coupled with its capacity for innovation, the company will help the project push the boundaries of current robotics technology and further cement Europe’s leading position in this promising sector.
In practice, the idea is to enable the armed forces to adapt to mission requirements by reversibly transforming all of their armoured vehicles into autonomous or remotely-operated platforms, capable of acting independently or in swarms. This ability will be useful, for example, in responding to contaminated environments or extracting an injured person from a hazardous area. This particularly innovative versatility will be made possible by developing technological, software and physical ‘bricks,’ which can be integrated both in the tanks currently in service within the various armies or in future vehicles.
In this context ECA Group, with its expertise in drone systems, will contribute to the planning and supervision of robotic missions in order to provide an integrated platform for programming and controlling a fleet of unmanned vehicles. In the field of mine clearance at sea, the group has already developed and marketed its UMISOFT software suite for mission management and collaboration between drones of different types in the surface, subsurface and airborne environments. Relying on this proven and reliable architecture, as well as on its expertise in robotics on land and in the air, the company will develop a new generation of software to adapt to land patrol missions, urban combat or convoy protection in the event of asymmetric warfare.
The system to be developed will integrate new powerful algorithms capable of providing optimal solutions on a battlefield in real time, taking into account as much information as possible provided by drones and associated sensors. Particular attention will be paid to the human-machine interface: the more relevant and unambiguous the information displayed, the more operators will be able to remain focused on the main mission objectives. Data communications and securing the entire system against cyber-attacks will also be among the priorities considered.
Beyond the military dimension, many elements of this project are also adaptable to non-military applications. By extension, this programme therefore offers Europe strategic independence in the markets for unmanned land systems, ranging from armoured vehicles to autonomous cars. What the TURMA project offers the EU is thus a typical example of what defence cooperation can be today: inclusive, with actors of all types and from many countries; useful in developing technological ‘bricks’ that will benefit the whole industry; economic by adapting to the technologies of the future as well as to existing equipment; and practical by strengthening the link between advanced technology and the people it must serve.