In collaboration with the British Army, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) has launched the Expeditionary Robotics Centre of Expertise (ERCoE), bringing together robotics and autonomous systems experts from across defence, government, academia and industry.
ERCoE will operate from MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol and from the Army BattleLab in Dorset, a technology project announced in August 2020. It will also act as a focal point for current innovative projects, and also assess unexplored, high-risk but rapidly maturing technologies.
“The CoE concept was born out of the need and opportunity to bring together separate projects and people into single groupings to be more efficient and effective,” said FCG Head, James Gavin. “Being more effective means a razor-sharp focus on exploitation and operational Advantage as the goal.”
Projects to be investigated at the outset include Remote Platoon Vehicles, nano Unmanned Air Systems, autonomous resupply of forward troops and how defence forms Human Machine Teams. Open access to information will ensure Defence can exploit the benefits this key disruptive technology could present, whilst also facilitating the rapid growth of expertise in this area.
The centre sits under the Future Capability Group (FCG) at DE&S, the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence. FCG has a direct line to market, ensuring ideas can be rapidly developed.
The ERCoE has been jointly launched with Future Force Development in Army HQ and is aligned to their Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy. The hub will initially focus on projects for the British Army, but there is optimism that as the group expands and matures, it will become a central hub of advice for expeditionary robotics across Defence.
“Co-teaming between the Army and DE&S will put the customer at the heart of what we do, exploring and delivering iteratively under an ‘Agile by Default’ mindset,” explained Gavin. “DE&S personnel will work alongside industry experts at the Army BattleLab within the Defence Innovation Centre, allowing new ideas and concepts to be quickly developed and put into practice.”
Lt Col Iain Lamont, SO1 Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the British Army, added, “The Army’s Future Force Development team are delighted to be entering into a fast-paced and exciting new partnership with the ERCoE. Driven by the Army’s RAS Strategy, this new agile approach will enable the delivery of several exciting new developments and ensure game-changing technology enters into service as early as possible as we look to accelerate Army transformation.”