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Robotics hub trail-blazes for the Army's experimentation battlegroup

A new centre designed to supercharge the development of robotics technology is set to revolutionise the Army of the future.

The Expeditionary Robotics Centre of Expertise (ERCoE) will bring together key defence robotics and autonomous systems projects under one focal point of knowledge and capability development, ensuring the Army and Defence can capitalise on the benefits this disruptive technology could present.

Some of the robotics technology and autonomous systems are already being trialled by the Army’s new Enhanced Light Force Battalion, 2 YORKS, formed as part of a £120 million three-year programme that is transforming how Future Soldiers in the infantry will operate and fight.
Now the collaborative and agile-by-design approach of the ERCoE, will use innovative commercial models to see Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) working with experts from Defence, Government, academia and Industry. It will allow open access to information, fresh ideas and specialist knowledge which will result in the rapid growth of expertise.

Projects being investigated include Remote Platoon Vehicles, nano Uncrewed Air Systems, autonomous resupply of forward troops and how defence forms Human Machine Teams.

Lt Col James Ashworth, Commanding Officer of 2 YORKS, said: “2 YORKS has just started their journey of trials and experimentation as the Army’s Enhanced Light Force Battalion. This has initially seen work with the new A3 rifle, the ARILLS sight that combines both Image Intensifying and Thermal capabilities, and the Dismounted Situational Awareness technology that brings unrivalled connectivity between soldiers and their commanders. 

“The next period of experimentation will include a fleet of six Robotic Platoon Vehicles (RPV) that have just arrived in Cyprus where 2 YORKS are based.”

The ERCoE comes under the stewardship of the Future Capability Group (FCG) at DE&S, the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence, which has a direct line to market and can ensure ideas can be rapidly developed.

Lt Col Iain Lamont, SO1 Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the British Army, said: “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 Robotics and Autonomous Systems (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.”

And James Gavin, Head of FCG, added: “The CoE concept was borne out of the need and opportunity to bring together separate capability projects and people into single groupings to be more efficient and effective.

“Being more effective means a razor-sharp focus on exploitation and operational advantage as the goal.

“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.”

The group will work alongside industry experts at the Army BattleLab located at the Defence Innovation Centre in Dorset which will enable new ideas and concepts to be quickly developed and put into practice.

The ERCoE has been jointly launched with Future Force Development in Army HQ and is aligned to their RAS Strategy.

However, while the hub will initially focus on projects for the British Army, as the group expands and matures it is expected to become a central hub of advice for expeditionary robotics across defence.

Lt Col Ashworth added: “Key to sustaining and fully exploiting this experimentation will be maintaining connection to groups in the UK such as Tommyworks, Defence And Security Accelerator (DASA), Infantry Trials and Development Unit (ITDU) and the Expeditionary Robotics Centre of Expertise (ERCoE).