British Army to operationally deploy new robots in 2019

The British Army is set to be supported by £66 million worth of cutting-edge robots, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced, reported by Sophie Jones in The Daily Star. Mini drones and robotic combat vehicles will bring the latest technology to the battlefield, he said. These include hundreds of mini drones which weigh less than 200g and are capable of carrying out surveillance over a wide geographical area - costing £31 million.

British Army to operationally deploy new robots in 2019
The Estonian company MILREM Robotics' THeMIS UGV appears the most successful platform for armed and unarmed variants. It was tested by the British army in 2018. Here above, a THeMis armed with two French MBDA MMP missiles and a medium machine gun at IDEX 2019 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

During his speech at the Autonomous Warrior Exploitation Conference in London on 5 March, referring to the well-known Black Hornet nano-drone, Gavin Williamson said: ”From the platoon up to the division, our troops will now have a priceless eye-in-the-sky, giving them the greater situational awareness they need to out-manoeuvre and out-fox our adversaries.”

A further £23 million will be spent on unmanned ground and airborne vehicles that can resupply troops on the frontline, cutting risk and allowing personnel to "focus on combat roles", Williamson added.

Mr Williamson also revealed that another £12 million will be spent on updating existing armoured vehicles, allowing them to be operated and controlled remotely. These will be pushed ahead of manned vehicles and used to test the strength of enemy defences, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Mr Williamson said the UK forces are embracing technology much more rapidly than virtually any other nation.

The Defence Secretary also said some of the new robotic kit "is already set to deploy to Estonia, Afghanistan and Iraq before the end of the year". Quizzed on how quickly the new technology will be brought to the frontline, he said there is "no reason to assume we won't be having them this year".