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Sharing the vision for defence

BAE Systems initiates and drives collaboration across customers, suppliers, SMEs and academic organisations to identify, integrate and deliver new capabilities for the UK's armed forces in the shortest timescales possible

BAE Systems Wildcat Autonomous Test Platform integrates technologies from across BAE Systems businesses, SMEs and academia to develop and deliver platform autonomy to the armed forces

The ability of our armed forces to protect citizens at home and abroad depends on an ever-expanding pool of creativity and innovation. As our adversaries get smarter, the demand for new technologies, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things has never been greater. Vital elements in this transformation of defence capability are the partnerships between Ministry of Defence (MoD), industry and academia that ensure that the very best solutions can be delivered in the shortest time scales.

Meeting the demand for new technologies requires both industry and government to challenge existing business models and traditional innovation processes. These challenges are being addressed by BAE Systems by initiating and driving collaboration across customers, suppliers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and academic organisations to identify, integrate and deliver the required capabilities for our armed forces. Increasing alignment between MoD requirements and BAE Systems technology route maps is driving investment decisions and exploitation paths that increase the pace of delivery to the front line whilst minimising programme risk.

With a legacy of innovation and technology encompassing some of the most significant engineering feats of the past century, BAE Systems has demonstrated a continuing commitment to engineering excellence. Platforms including Concorde and the Harrier Jump Jet, technologies such as radar and electro-optic sensors through to recent innovations such as Synthetic Gecko, a material that recreates the hair-like structures on a gecko?s foot to deliver incredible sticking power, are a few examples of the innovative capability of BAE Systems.

At the heart of the innovation process is BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre (ATC), playing a leading role in delivering innovation through partnerships both internal and external to BAE Systems. The ATC is tasked with the delivery of research and technology to BAE Systems, its joint venture organisations and customers. Its role is to identify and develop technologies, systems, concepts and processes that will maintain BAE Systems? position as a leading-edge organisation and enable future growth. It is a role that can only be effectively fulfilled by engaging and working with organisations across industries and around the globe.

It is through the development of long-term, shared goal relationships with key academic institutions and innovative SMEs throughout the UK and the broader global technology marketplace that the ATC leverages its own unique capabilities to create and exploit worldleading solutions. By adopting a ?technology brokering? approach to the delivery of future capability to our armed forces, the ATC pro-actively seeks to identify technologies and innovations that will complement its own, recognising that only through collaboration are they able to achieve the results and solutions our armed forces need in a timely and affordable way.

The breadth of capability and technology domains engaged by the ATC stretch across a vast range of disciplines, each supported by a network of relationships to ensure research and development is driven to exploitation whilst minimising time, cost and risk. The ATC?s capability portfolio includes: networks and communication systems, sensing and electronics, human engineering, materials science, mathematical modelling and simulation, specialist manufacturing and systems engineering.

A critical area of capability vital to the future needs of the UK armed forces and an area where partnering is key to success is the delivery of autonomous and semiautonomous platforms. Keeping the human operator out of harms way and maintaining operational performance with reduced crew requirements is driving the increasing demand for unmanned and autonomous systems. The goal of the US armed forces is that by 2015, a third of its operational ground combat vehicles will be unmanned, a goal that is echoed in many armed forces around the world. Requiring technologies ranging from platforms and sensors through to the intelligent decision-making algorithms and processes that control them, it necessitates a broad range of skills, disciplines and technologies that can only be delivered through effective partnering.

To address the fundamental concepts, technologies and operational issues associated with autonomous platforms, the ATC have developed the ?Wildcat? autonomous test platform. Designed to enable rapid field testing of sensing, behaviour and control, the ATC assembled a task force of suppliers and partners to deliver an ambitious programme in a cost-effective and rapid time frame. In just six months the integrated team of partners equipped the vehicle with an ability to drive, sense and think for itself demonstrating both autonomous and semi-autonomous operation. The programme has continued to develop autonomous capabilities using a radical open architecture approach, enabling core technology to be simply transplanted between a range of additional defence vehicles. This demonstrates practical exploitation and realisation of autonomy support to front-line forces in the land domain.

The advent of intelligent autonomy heralds the opportunity to develop radical new platform designs offering increased operational performance, particularly in the air domain. Drawing on BAE Systems? university partnership programme, the FLAVIIR project brought together experts from across academia to develop new technologies for future Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV). With a pool of university partners including Cranfield, Imperial College, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton, Swansea, Warwick and York, the BAE Systems and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded programme set the challenge to develop technologies for a maintenance-free, low-cost UAV without conventional control surfaces. Future UAVs will be cheaper, more modular and rely on designs that consider many cross-discipline interactions and trade offs. FLAVIIR is representative of BAE Systems? strategic approach to greater co-operation between university partners and industry to understand and deliver emerging technologies that can be integrated to create systems for the future.

Combining platform autonomy and the enhanced performance that it potentially offers, the BAE Systems Capability Augmentation Programme (CAP) brings together the mission planning and management capability for unmanned systems to develop future concepts of operation and integration of autonomous systems into existing front-line operations. Combining assets across land, air and sea and integrating varying levels of platform autonomy from driver aids to highly autonomous, the programme integrates capabilities from across BAE Systems to offer a dynamic mission-planning solution capable of interfacing with legacy systems.

The development of autonomous systems, their operation and delivery, epitomises the ATC?s approach to bringing together the best in class of technology and capability from across SMEs, academia and industry to offer capabilities to our armed forces that provide real advantage on the front line. The real success of the research activity is seen in its exploitation across BAE Systems unmanned systems portfolio including the UAVs HERTI and MANTIS through to the TALISMAN submersible.

The ATC?s ?technology brokering? approach to the identification, integration and exploitation of technology and innovation is delivering real and rapid results against future defence requirements. It is also generating significant spill-over benefit for the SMEs and academic institutions that the ATC partners with. By providing key development funding, routes to market and technology exploitation, BAE Systems? partnership approach contributes to the UK economy by supporting business growth, skills development and employment. By taking a collaborative approach, uniting capabilities, pooling resources and expertise to generate and maximise innovation, BAE Systems, Advanced Technology Centre is driving forward to deliver the next generation of defence capabilities and is supporting the growth of the indigenous technology base within the UK.

For more information on
BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre,
please contact:
Andrew Jenkins
Head of Marketing
Tel: 0117 302 8160
and click on Technology and Innovation.

Added the 25 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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