A consortium led by the Estonian Milrem Robotics and composed of several major defence, communication and cybersecurity companies and high technology SMEs established in the EU submitted their application to the European Commission’s European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) for a multi-mission unmanned ground system capable of being teamed with manned and aerial vehicles.
The system will consist of a robust and modular unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) equipped with an electronic warfare resistant command, control and communications solution and secure autonomous mobility software that enables the operator to simultaneously and safely control multiple land and air platforms.
The UGVs will be able to team with manned and aerial vehicles with the objective to provide flexibility, modularity and versatility for different missions, increase protection, sustainability and performance of military operations and enhance situational awareness of ground forces.
During the project operational know-how will be gathered and concepts for the combined engagement of manned and unmanned assets developed, while taking into account the ethical aspects applicable to robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. State-of-the-art virtual and constructive simulation environments will also be set up.
The project is titled iMUGS (integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System) due to its origins at the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework. The iMUGS project was officially adopted by 25 EU defence Ministers on the updated list of projects for PESCO in November 2018. It is led by Estonia and technical requirements have also been agreed with Finland, Latvia, Germany, Belgium, France and Spain. The project is consistent with several of the European Defence Agency’s 11 major priorities in the 2018 Capability Development Plan.
”A number of European nations will start using unmanned vehicles in logistics and ISR roles, reducing the physical and cognitive load and increasing the safety of our troops. It’s important that this new capability will be well integrated with existing capabilities and force structure,” explained Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics. “It’s equally important that these new unmanned systems are safe to use and cyber protected. This is exactly the scope that iMUGS is targeting,” Väärsi added.
A Memorandum of Understanding for the cooperation has been signed by 14 parties: Milrem Robotics, GT Cyber Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense, NEXTER Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Diehl Defence, Bittium Wireless, Insta DefSec, (Un)Manned, dotOcean, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, GMV Aerospace and Defence, the Estonian Military Academy and Royal Military Academy of Belgium. This unprecedented cross-border cooperation will join all expertise and skills across EU necessary to achieve a significant step forwards in this domain.
The objectives of the EDIDP programme are to contribute to the strategic autonomy of the European Union and to strengthen the cooperation between Member States. The priorities include enabling high-end operations of military forces with special focus on intelligence and secured communications and cyber. Actions include development of next generation ground combat capabilities and solutions in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Cyber technologies.