Army sets out Future Soldier robotics and autonomous systems plans

Yesterday the British Army announced that it will integrate robotics and autonomous systems to equip soldiers with a competitive edge in the fast-changing digital world.

At the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition at the Excel, the world’s largest gathering of the defence and security community, a British Army stand is showcasing how it is adapting and responding to the changing character of global conflict. 

The stand sets out how the Army will integrate Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) as part of its Future Soldier vision.

The integration of RAS will require the generation of ‘human-machine-teams’ by augmenting current capabilities with a network of new sensors and effectors. 

Examples of how the Army may deploy RAS in the future include autonomous systems to provide situational awareness or counter-drone capabilities; delivery of supplies to remote regions; and using AI to enhance the military decision-making process. 

In effect, RAS will undertake some of the dangerous, dirty and dull tasks that have previously been accomplished solely by soldiers.

Robotics technology and autonomous systems are currently being trialled by 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, the Army’s new Enhanced Light Force Battalion.

The Cyprus-based battalion is blazing a trail for the future Army with £120million worth of new kit and equipment, which will transform how the infantry will operate and fight.

2 YORKS Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Ashworth, says, “We’ve got enhanced weaponry and enhanced sights so we can see and target the enemy better, predominantly at night-time, but also during the day.

“But perhaps the most exciting part is our remote autonomous systems, such as robotic vehicles and uncrewed aerial systems, helping to combine those capabilities to see how we can improve our lethality on the battlefield.

“The soldiers are thrilled to have the opportunity to use this new kit. It gives them a real sense of purpose here in Cyprus, above and beyond what they’re normally asked to do. Our young soldiers are being told their voice is going to count and their experiences with this kit will help shape how we fight in the future - it’s a tremendous privilege to have.

“The Future Soldier concept is about the integration of machines and humans into that single team. It’s about enhancing mass. Yes, the Army is going to get smaller in numerical terms, but that should not mean, and won’t mean, a reduction in capability.

“Our young soldiers will face less challenges because they absolutely get the integration of machine augmentation into their daily living.”

The battalion has recently received a fleet of six robotic platoon vehicles designed to decrease the burden on soldiers in the field, with the ability to take on heavy loads of kit, equipment and aid casualty evacuation.