The Army has been exploring the challenges of the FOE using Global Strategic Trends and “Physical delivery of supplies to troops on the ground” (last mile delivery) is seen as an important concept for development.
The process is currently manpower intensive, fraught with danger and often limits op tempo, leading to an inability to exploit situations or potential advantages (one of the key tenets of the manoeuvrist approach – British Army Doctrine).
We want to: Reduce the burden on the front line soldier Streamline the last delivery leg of the support network Potentially replace humans for dangerous tasks involving distribution of CSUPs and materiel to isolated, hard to reach and contested locns
Capable of accommodating over 32,000 people, 20 square miles in area.
As a result of these approaches being manned systems (or involving manned aircraft)…
Effective Range. The project must ascertain the optimum effective range and provide clear evidence. The solution must be capable of being transported by extant deployed capabilities, in order to remove the necessity of bespoke support platform.
Payload. The project must investigate and identify typical payloads for a variety of sub-unit capability support over a 24 hour period and be able meet the requirement, providing evidence of findings to support the requirement. The payload must be able to be remotely monitored.
Environmental Factors. The project should explore the utility of the solution operating within the environmental conditions contained in DEFSTAN 00-35 and provide compelling evidence to support the selection of said solution. This work must include the analysis of terrain mobility and obstacle identification, avoidance and crossing.
Signature. The solution must have passive sensors and only operate active sensors where the threat permits. Its heat, noise and EMS signature must be reduced as far as possible (should not add to the signature of the dismounted soldier).
Support. Due to the nature of its deployment the solution must be repairable using the deployed echelons of ES. It must be fitted with a conditions based maintenance monitoring system and be able to conduct some form of self-repair or have sufficient redundancy to operate with a reduction in mobility (of at least 40%).
Power source. The powering of the solution should not cause an excessive burden on the extant support chain. It should seek to utilise renewables technology, existing power sources or develop novel methods that further reduce the logistic footprint.
Navigation. The solution must have the capability to operate within a GPS denied environment and have waypoint control coupled with off-road navigational capabilities.
Survivability. The solution must be able to withstand cyber and physical interdiction by hostile forces. It may be used in a swarm capacity, where redundancy is permissible and expected (clear evidence would be required to articulate the benefit of this method of delivery).
Connectivity. This must be a network based capability, in order to allow the system to exploit sub-system redundancies across the Battlespace (if one system gets damaged it will work in accordance with the other sub-systems to deliver the resupply to the prioritised end user.
Firstly I’d like to refocus bidder’s attention to the challenge structure as outlined in the competition document and by Pete. I will run through the three challenge areas in this competition.
Then I will present two vignettes, giving examples of potential last mile resupply missions, based upon our Army’s user needs as described earlier.
I will then talk about some of the performance measures we have included with the competition document, and provide some context for how some of those metrics were derived. I will finally present a use case example using a Synthetic Environment.
In this competition we recognise the challenges that Mark has outlined, and that to achieve an autonomous last mile resupply capability, we will need to break down the problem and collaborate across different industries to pool expertise.
The first challenge is for the unmanned platforms – to physically move supplies across the battlefield. These could be ground or air based – we are interested in both; each will have advantages in different environments and scenarios.
The second challenge is to take those unmanned platforms and make them more appropriate for the deployed military user. That might mean allowing them to operate with less human involvement, without GPS and generally more autonomy technologies in order to perform complex missions in complex environments.
The third challenge is to provide a system of generating and managing resupply missions – such technologies will improve efficiencies and reduce the manpower burden associated with managing the tactical resupply chain, helping to realise what we hope will the key benefit.
systems with multiple platforms, for example swarming systems
systems involving a mix of ground and air platforms working together
provide performance step-changes in the use of unmanned systems in tactical logistic roles – in a wide range of challenging environments, outlined already today.
For example, hardware solutions could include sensors to help predict or monitor the demand for combat supplies. Software could handle and process the resupply missions.
In the competition document we provide two vignettes, examples of potential scenarios in which an autonomous last mile resupply system could be used. They are intentionally quite different and represent different, equally valid, interpretations of our ‘last mile’ requirement.
In this scenario, a mechanised infantry brigade is deployed at least 100km from the nearest base and is spread over a wide area. Logistics vehicles follow behind to keep the force sustained, but these move slowly off road and cannot rapidly resupply within the ‘last tactical mile’ where combat forces are deployed.
The distances from the logistics vehicles and the infantry vehicles are approximately 30km. In this vignette, one infantry vehicle from a squadron has broken down, and the vehicle mechanics require a small spare part they do not have with them, and a top-up of fuel to repair their vehicle and proceed to their objective. The part (and fuel if possible) is to be moved forward by autonomous vehicle(s) over off-road terrain from a logistics vehicle 30km to the rear.
Meanwhile, soldiers have dismounted from their vehicles and have just secured their objective at a town in complex terrain. The soldiers are not in contact but remain in a high-threat environment.
They now require sustainment and are 3km ahead of the infantry vehicles they left in order to fight on to the objective. Each requires a replenishment of ammunition, water, food and sleeping systems. Approximately 50kg of supplies are required from each vehicle to be moved forward to each vehicle’s section within 30 minutes and the road into the urban area is blocked to large vehicles with rubble and IEDs. Autonomous vehicles are to be launched either from the infantry vehicles or from the logistics vehicles further to the rear in order to resupply the infantry holding the urban terrain.
In this scenario, a light infantry platoon has come into contact with the enemy. The platoon in contact has taken a casualty, is unable to win the fire fight and is running low on ammunition which is reducing their combat strength. The reserve platoon due to reinforce are located less than 2km away but due to the terrain their mobility is limited and they will take at least 20 minutes to arrive. Immediate ammunition replenishment is required in order to break contact and extract the casualty.
Autonomous vehicles must deliver ammunition to the platoon in contact within 6 minutes. The vehicles must be capable of rapidly planning and navigating a route over difficult off-road terrain, and in high winds, heavy rain and poor visibility or at night.
The quantity of loads required is small; less than 5kg per man and around 50kg in total will allow the platoon in contact to increase their rates of fire to defeat the enemy or safely withdraw.
Tempo, accuracy and ease of operation are paramount in this operation. Loads should be delivered as far forward as is feasible – the right nature of ammunition should arrive for each fire team or even directly to the feet of each soldier.
Once the whole company is out of contact, it will be rapidly resupplied within 30 minutes in line with the development of future concepts for Light Forces. Autonomous systems are to be used to deliver as much as is feasible as the terrain and threat environment could lead to further casualties.
I will now talk through, in summary, the target performance we are looking from autonomous resupply systems. I stress that these attributes are purely targets – they do not represent pass / fail criteria, and we recognise that the state of the art may not meet these targets, or may exceed them. In this competition we are looking to develop the best systems suitable for the military environment, and these measures are to guide bidders in to what we think is likely to make a useful capability.These targets are what we are aiming for in PHASE 2 of the competition, after technologies and platforms are integrated into complete systems.
300m – Typical distance between sections in a platoon. 3km – Typical distance between platoons or coys. 30km – potential distances between more dispersed units – Air Assault / a dispersed Strike Brigade.
Likely increasing payloads with increasing ranges, as lar
The competition document also refers to sizes and shapes of payloads – again, however, payloads can be often spread across multiple platforms in a system.
The speed that these systems can be operated will be key in some scenarios. This is both in terms of the vehicle’s speed, and that’s averaged across the complete mission, and the time required for basic maintenance and mission preparation.
Reflecting on what Lt Col Stuart presented earlier, we will require systems be capable of operating in a wide range of operating environments. The most basic target here is that systems are capable of operating outside at an Army facility – so off road, and in moderate winds. A more advanced target is to meet all of the complex terrains discussed earlier, and more adverse weather conditions.
For levels of autonomy – we desire systems that are capable of being operated without GPS, that are aware of enemy tampering and can navigate by waypoint positions on a map – i.e. the systems are not remotely controlled directly.
More advanced aspirations are for systems that automatically plan their routes to the recipients locations, using the ground tactically to minimise detection. Obstacles detected and avoided and the systems automatically re-plan without operator intervention. The final drop-off of supplies is guided with additional precision, automatically, and missions are all taking place beyond the visual line of sight of operators.
We desire systems that, at a minimum are transportable by existing deployed transport systems, and can be supported in the field.
More advanced targets are to have systems that are fully integrated into existing equipment such as vehicles, and integrated into a wider logistics management system to enable improved efficiency across the supply chain.
At the event we played a number of video clips from a synthetic environment simulation of an example of an autonomous resupply system in use..
Accelerator Autonomous last mile resupply Challenge overview - 23 May 2017
Autonomous Last Mile Re-supply Overview
23 May 2017
The Army Perspective
Lt Col Mark Stuart
Who am I?
• 19 years in Army Combat Service Support (CSS)
• Operational experience
– Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Cyprus
• HQ Army Capability Directorate CSS - Concept Capability Development
– Innovation, Research & Experimentation
– Force Development
– “Fight Tomorrow” Interoperability
– Logistic Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Information
– Robotics and Autonomous Systems
The Modern Soldier Burden
The British Army Mule
Pamphlet 1928 states
a mule must not carry
more than 25% of it’s
Currently, the average
Infantry soldier carries
82% of his body weight
in Combat Equipment
• unmanned systems for logistics
resupply in challenging military
• waypoint-based control
• simple and safe to operate in a
deployed military environment
with limited infrastructure
• 300m to 30km ranges
• transported by current
capabilities and impose
minimal additional logistics
• integrate with existing
• modular and open
architectures to allow future
ChallengeUnmanned air and ground load carrying
Technologies and systems to allow load
carrying platforms to operate
• provide novel methods of command and control
• provide performance step-changes in the use
of unmanned systems in tactical logistic roles
• simplified or automated features, such as
launch, recovery, loading, unloading,
Technologies to autonomously predict,
plan, track and optimise resupply
demands from military users
• logistics demand prediction and reporting
• planning of resupply missions
• manage and track resupply missions
• provide feedback to providers and end-users
• automate or speed up simple manual requests