Optionally Manned Autonomous Vehicle Development
We were delighted to team with Digital Concepts Engineering in a challenging quick-fire bid to field an optionally manned / fully autonomous Extreme Terrain Vehicle. The concept, design and development was completed in an astonishing 2 months, drawing upon some work that we had undertaken in response to an earlier bid. Such a rapid turn-around was possible only because the modular technologies that we have each developed allowed us to mix and match the very best of options quickly and efficiently. The highly capable industrial grade solution we constructed matches or beats the best that is available. It is an excellent demonstration of the art of the possible from British engineering innovation and was achieved on a comparative shoestring through the focused efforts of British SMEs. The attached video picks out some of the functional highlights.
Our focus will now be turning to agriculture, addressing the challenges of farming, management and regeneration in more extreme terrains. Here there is an urgent need for lightness of touch combined with industrial grade performance, and meaningful load capacity, all of which is home territory for us.
However our advanced modular technologies allow us to offer considerably more than mere access and grunt, we have a multi-function platform capable of accepting numerous modular and conventional accessory fits and can now combine a level of accessible automation that will address pressing labour and efficiency issues. The potential in this difficult and under-funded sector are enormous, with energy crops such as Willow and Miscanthus at the bleeding edge of meeting the next generation of our energy needs.
Equally interesting are the peripheral benefits of automation. Manpower and convenience aside, routine and detailed environmental data collection will provide an increasingly important management tool, allowing ready access to 4 dimensional information on ground condition, crops, animals, water and climate. We see harvesting and exploitation of the ‘information crop’ as an increasingly essential enabler locally, regionally and nationally, and we have started work on the development of a more coherent digital information domain. The Artificial Intelligence engines that underpin automation will also serve other forms of analysis, modelling and projection.
Autonomy is difficult enough on-road, it is far more of a challenge on mixed terrain. We will be collaborating with relevant standards and regulatory bodies as we develop and refine our technologies, providing them with insight to and recommendations on how we best develop these capabilities safely. Our aim is to maintain appropriate and well-focused regulatory control without stifling innovation.
Our current generation of hydrostatic vehicles are diesel powered, however with UK Innovate support we have been pressing forward with next-generation graphene supercapacitor technologies. These will unlock pure electric and hybrid solutions that Lithium technologies alone are not well suited to addressing in an off-road context. Our electric all-terrain vehicle prototype test-bed will substantially speed this effort. Slightly further off will be the fielding of a hydrogen-powered variant, for which plans are in place.