Industry works with Defence to help Army engineers survey water crossings

Map the Gap

Amphibious vehicles and drones are currently being trialled to potentially help future soldiers advance safely into enemy territory across wide and fast flowing rivers and other water obstacles.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) trial forms the second stage of the Map the Gap competition launched two years ago with three industrial partners. Its aim is to find solutions that will reduce the risk to troops when crossing a body of water such as rivers and other so-called ‘wet gaps’ found at the forward edge of the battlefield.

Currently, the only ways of identifying suitable crossing points are to send Royal Engineer reconnaissance troops to survey both banks of the river or divers to survey the riverbed to ensure amphibious vehicles have a clear path.

Map the Gap is investigating how remote and autonomous platforms equipped with electronic sensing equipment could reduce the risk to personnel on the ground whilst increasing the options available to commanders, giving them a critical advantage.

“Wide water crossings are one of the most difficult operations we conduct in the military,” said Major Needham Officer Commanding, 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron.

“The reconnaissance burden is far higher than any other crossing operation we do. We have to send Engineer Reconnaissance Sergeants and divers down to the riverbanks to identify possible sites. This puts our soldiers in danger and can potentially alert our adversaries to our intentions.”

The three prototypes being tested are expected to be able to retrieve information including the depth and flow of the water, the distance between both banks and their respective heights as well as the ground-bearing capacity of the nearby land.

Tests also include the accuracy and timing of the survey process and the presentation of data to the user in a way they can interpret and use.

This is just one of the many trials currently underway as part of the Army’s Future Soldier transformation that will modernise the Army to address next-generation threats in an increasingly unpredictable world.