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U.K. defense minister calls for autonomous supply vehicles

By Ryan Maass
U.K. defense minister calls for autonomous supply vehicles
U.K. procurement chief Harriet Baldwin is challenging British defense enterprises to develop new land-based platforms. U.K. Royal Navy photo by Paul Hall

April 14 (UPI) -- Britain's defense ministry is asking security contractors to design new autonomous systems that can be used to deliver supplies to ground forces.

In a statement released Friday, Defense Minister Harriet Baldwin said her country's government seeks to develop new unmanned platforms to resupply troops in combat. The ministry's stated goal is providing its armed forces with more safety.

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"Making sure we use the latest technology to keep our personnel safe and have the kit they need is a key part of our [$1 billion] innovation fund," she said in a press release. "We're challenging industry and academia to work with us to design ground-breaking autonomous systems that will get supplies to the front line."

The request supports the British government's Innovation Initiative, an effort to develop modernized battlefield solutions.

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"Our investment in innovative solutions demonstrates how the government's [$223 billion] equipment plan, supported by a rising defense budget, will ensure that the U.K. maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world," Baldwin added.

The challenge will be led by the British Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, a government organization which performs a similar role as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the United States.

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"We are particularly keen to reach out and encourage organizations that might not have worked with the defense and security sector before, such as those developing commercial driverless vehicles, drone delivery services and robotic agriculture, to get involved with the challenge and help us rapidly advance the way we deliver tactical military logistics," added Peter Stockel, a program leader in the agency.

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