Systems, engineering and technology consultancy, Frazer-Nash, is working with Dstl’s Future Ground Combat Vehicle team to develop and test generic architectures for the next generation of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs).
The Future Ground Combat Vehicle team is responsible for a research project that is developing novel concepts for future combat vehicles for the UK’s armed forces and carrying out supporting technology risk reduction. UGVs are already being fielded and are the subject of Army experimentation. In the longer term they are seen as being an integral part of an advanced capability.
Frazer-Nash is supporting the team to develop a generic architecture for future UGVs that is modular and open. Such an architecture will allow fielded UGVs to be rapidly configured with mission specific fits and support the through life insertion of new and improved technologies as they mature. It will provide UGV and UGV sub-system suppliers with a framework for product development and exploitation.
Working closely with the Land Open Systems Architecture (LOSA) to consider integration with the Land Data Model (LDM), Frazer-Nash – assisted by Digital Concepts Engineering (DCE) and Agile Vehicle Technologies (AVT) – have produced a prototype architecture along with recommendations for adopting applicable standards. An implementation of the resulting architecture has been successfully demonstrated at the Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ATDU) in Dorset.
As part of the demonstration, Frazer-Nash showcased the re-rolling of UGVs with multiple mission payloads, proving that the architecture could enable quick configuration of different mission modules in a battlefield scenario. It also demonstrated that two different UGVs could be controlled from the same base station, as part of a single communication domain, which will allow the land forces to use more UGVs in missions without increasing manning requirements.
The final element of the demonstration showcased the handover of control from one base station to another on the same network, using the same process as used in the LDM. This will allow operators to transfer control between mounted and dismounted units.
Describing the benefits that generic architectures can offer the MOD, Frazer-Nash Defence Business Manager, David Austin, said:
“Unmanned and autonomous vehicles are becoming an integral part of the UK’s strategy for future warfare. With rapidly evolving technologies, and a large number of suppliers developing unique products, the MOD needs to enable access to these technologies to allow it to choose from the broadest range of potential suppliers and avoid vendor locking; but also has to ensure that suppliers’ products can integrate into its current and future operating concepts.
“Working with our partners, our Frazer-Nash team used its expertise in requirements capture, integrated electronic systems and embedded software to help Dstl to systematically develop a suitable electronic and software architecture. Generic architectures can help enable the British Army to undertake the agile procurement of unmanned vehicles, allowing it to achieve high levels of capability in a fast-moving technological environment, while operating cost effectively.”
William Suttie, the technical lead for the FGCS research at Dstl said:
“There is growing interest in the use of UGVs and the implementation of modular and open architecture principles to future platforms will enable them to be rapidly modified to meeting different roles and changing mission needs. Subsystem technologies are developing rapidly, especially in the areas such as sensors and autonomy stacks, and the use of open interfaces will allow more advanced technologies to be rapidly exploited cost effectively as they mature.”
Lionel Nierop, Director at Digital Concepts Engineering (DCE), said:
“Adoption of Open Architectures ensures that the defence supply chain can extend beyond the traditional big Primes. They allow innovative, agile SMEs to deliver game-changing capabilities without the cost and timescales historically associated with defence systems and it seems apt that Frazer-Nash Consultancy’s project team included such a strong SME element. The systems developed in this project will directly ensure our soldiers get better technology faster and cheaper and in a timely fashion.”