Forward reconnaissance and surveillance represent a significant risk for military personnel even when they are partially protected by armour. The use of an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) such as VIKING, which has the potential for a reduced signature compared to larger manned platforms, could go ahead of the main force and provide game-changing capability.

The military concept of Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) involves increasing situational awareness and survivability by utilising unmanned semi-autonomous assets in a forward (stand-off) position supported and controlled by more vulnerable manned assets which could be located in a more secure position.

This work combines the strengths of both manned and unmanned platforms allowing the Army to conduct a range of operations that could include combat support and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, without the manned platform needing to break cover.

Having a UGV being controlled from an AFV means that the crew will have other tasks that may require their full attention so the system is designed to operate for extended periods semi-autonomously without needing human intervention but will alert the user to important situations if they occur for example detecting something of interest. To reduce the cognitive burden, the VIKING MUM-T system makes use of semi-autonomy to address the two key high workload tasks associated with operating an ISTAR UGV:

  • Driving an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) in complex off-road terrain
  • The automatic detection and geolocation of objects of interest

The system leverages HORIBA MIRA’s existing Modular Autonomous Control Equipment (MACE) which is an evolution of the control system used by the PANAMA UGV, which was in service in Afghanistan. The MACE autonomy provides several core unmanned vehicle functions including:

  • Remote control
  • Teleoperation
  • Strategic route generation
  • Autonomous route following
  • Obstacle detection
  • Obstacle avoidance and tactical routeing

The VIKING MUM-T system also takes an existing high-performance ISTAR payload and adds a semi-autonomous surveillance capability and neural network processing to provide:

  • Scan and search
  • Detection and recognition of targets or objects of interest
  • Geolocation of those targets or objects of interest

The project has also developed a tablet-based Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) like HMI to support the following functions:

  • Real-time low latency video for UGV supervision (high workload for baseline or manual intervention)
  • Hand controller UGV teleoperation (high workload for baseline or manual intervention)
  • Notification for when UGV has reached a destination waypoint
  • Notification for if there is a problem due to obstacles too big to avoid tactically or achieving waypoint
  • Alerts for object detection
  • Hand controller for manual ISTAR payload control
  • Real-time low latency ISTAR video (visual and thermal) for identification and inspection of targets
  • Target geolocation display
  • AI classification displays for both map view and the camera views