back to article Are you seeing this, Amazon? British military steps up robot tech tests with drone capable of carrying 60kg payloads

The British military's push towards autonomous war machines continued as the Royal Marines tested various items of robot battlefield equipment during a recent exercise in Cyprus. Marines from the Littoral Strike Group, which spent the last three months deployed to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, tested what the Ministry of …

  1. Ken 16 Silver badge

    Aerial ammo deliveries

    That's been around for some time, it's called incoming fire.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Aerial ammo deliveries

      I think that rather like the defn of "a good landing" is that you get to reuse the incoming rounds

    2. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Aerial ammo deliveries

      I agree, that's what we used to call a bomber. They should call it the B-.033 Electric Fan.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Beach landings?

    Is the UK defence procurement really based on scenes from old WW2 movies?

    1. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Beach landings?

      Does the UK have many moviesregarding later wars? I'm not familiar with the UK film oeuvre. US has Korea, Vietnam, and plenty of other cinematic material to use for their planning.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beach landings?

      It's based on keeping the defense industry rolling in dough so the execs can do their own beach landings on their own private beaches, just like here across the pond.

    3. iainr

      Re: Beach landings?

      Royal marines are amphibious warfare specialists, beach landings is one of the main things they do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Beach landings?

        And not very often. The last was about 40 years ago and the Commandos landed with the Paras, who don't do water. Whatever, it was a mess with blokes getting soaked and freezing cold from the off. As for the later operation involving the Welsh Guards, the less said the better.

        60Kgs might sound a lot, but it's only a dozen 81mm mortar rounds.

        1. DrXym

          Re: Beach landings?

          I have no idea if this drone is viable but all military tech starts off as some shiny thing and it has to prove itself or get discarded.

          As for landings, I assume you're referring to the Falkand Islands conflict. In which case, how do you think the armed forces may have fared if the commandos had no preparedness for conduct landings (or march over mountains for that matter?). It's not like armies often get a 12-month written notice of some upcoming conflict so they have to maintain a state of readiness to potential threats even if in hindsight they didn't happen.

        2. iainr

          Re: Beach landings?

          That was the last time it was done at Brigade strength, for about the last 60 years 3Cdo Brigade have been tasked with securing Northern Norway which is an amphibious role. We haven't used the parachute regiment in an airborne operation since WWII and we've used armour properly in anger what twice? but we still need the capability and we still need to train with it.

          As for Bluff cove, the major causes of that were:

          1. 5 Brigade being shipped down and opening up a second, unnecessary front, with no logistical backup and being unable to yomp similar distances to the marines and paras.

          2. A para officer comandeering 4 LCUs at gunpoint that were allocated to move the welsh guards, meaning half the battallion then had to go via LSL

          3. Army officers refusing to accept the advice of RN and RM officers to offload the welsh guards first and when finally ordered to do so by 5 brigade HQ insisting that an Ambulance unit (including vehicles) be unloaded have priority.

          If it had been Marines onboard they'd have been off the LSLs before the air raids came in.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: Beach landings?

            "We haven't used the parachute regiment in an airborne operation since WWII ... "

            Suez, 5 November 1956, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

            1. iainr

              Re: Beach landings?

              I said Suez as soon as I hit post. actually I think it was 1, 2 and 3 Battalions (wikipedia says 16th parachute brigade) of course there were beach landings as well, and a heliborne assault.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The QinetiQ that I know and love

    Really do not like making actual things - they really really don't.

    They like 'research' where that means producing reports or manning working groups, but actual stuff? Physical stuff? That works?! Doesn't quite ring true!

    1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      Re: The QinetiQ that I know and love

      When QinetiQ was formed in 2001 they weren't allowed to manufacture. This was to protect existing manufacturer suppliers from what they saw as unfair competition from this new, government backed contractor. Don't know if that is still the case 19 years later but maybe the corporate culture is still against manufacturing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The QinetiQ that I know and love

        QQ have been able to operate commercially from the outset (2002), certainly since they floated in 2006. DERA weren't allowed to manufacture commercially as they were a Govt wing (despite having lots of v nice tech), so that's why it was split into the commercial side (Qinetiq) and DSTL (the Govt scientists).

        If you look at the history of making excessive money for nothing then that might be the driver of QQ's corporate culture, as detailed here:

  4. Chris G

    Drone Dome

    Let's hope the forces don't come up against the Israeli Drone Dome which allegedly downed and caught the perpetrators of the Gatwick drone crisis a while back. That is according to this YT video; starts at 10.02.

    I have been keeping up with some of the claims in the Nagorno-Karabakh spat and one or two other conflicts and all of them seem to have a range of different drones available to them that seem to work, including for both attack and fire direction if the videos are to be believed, so why is the UK military having such a hard time getting their drone force off the ground?

    1. DoctorNine

      Re: Drone Dome

      Well the thing is, the public never should know about the drones we already HAVE. And only redacted figures on the cost. What we get news of, is the price of the goodies that they want to build for the NEXT set. So they tell us these stories. And then, when they get THAT money, they build things with entirely different functions.

      Your mother never learned what you did with that Christmas toy Erector set she bought you, did she? I believe these industrious fellows operate along those lines...

  5. David Pearce

    Not for civilians

    Making a drone that can carry 60 kg is not new. It will be big and heavy, so making it safe for flying over civilians or anywhere near commercial airspace in peace time is a hard problem.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      > making it safe .. is a hard problem.

      It certainly is. I once worked for a certain company that made a certain drone based on a paraglider, that was meant to carry a 120kg payload.

      Sadly the management seemed to believe that it was a simple matter of scaling up a 12kg design based on hobby servos & RC gear, that mostly worked and only occasionally flew off into the sunset.

      The 50kg version was unstable on take-off and nearly killed some of their customers.

      The 120kg version was meant to have both a petrol engine with long-run tank, and a large lithium battery on board, and would still be suspended from a flammable, collapsible piece of cloth, which if it tugged on the control lines too much, or if it hits the wrong thermal, collapses like a borked kite and ceases to produce lift.

      How the heck do we make that safe?

      Their solution was to hire more 'systems engineers' to validate a non-existent and infeasible design, fire anyone who disagreed with their vision (ahem, no, I am not bitter, they really were a bunch of clowns), shut their eyes and throw wads of investor's cash at it.

      1. David Pearce

        Re: > making it safe .. is a hard problem.

        I've had to deal with the bloated RC model approach also, on a conventional fixed wing.

        Single engined - over populated areas

        Single control mechanical system - you need redundancy to cope with failures

        Single control link

        Crude autopilot - anywhere interesting and you need a preprogrammed escape plan in case you lose control

        No transponder

        Total dependence on GPS

        The list goes on and on

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: > making it safe .. is a hard problem.

          I was in on the early development. The problem was finding a really big elastic band to control the rudder.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always good weather in these drone/tech "trailers"

    Having known someone that worked in the Department of Transport, the tests required to deploy something to a motorway would probably preclude most of these.... Hopefully the tests for the armed forces will be much more vigorous and wide ranging... Or it'll end up like uk trains where the wrong leaves/snow etc prevents normal operation.

  7. Andreas Moroder

    only 60 kg ?

    look at what this guys build

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can imagine the headline. RPG fire hits incoming ammo drone and causes amazing airburst over friendly troops - tits on page 3.

    Plan B - armoured drone!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Parcel delivery

    Why not? It's as good a way as any to finance an army.

  10. Chairman of the Bored

    Redneck skeet shooting with prizes

    The trick is using enough bang to down the drone, but not enough to cook off the mortar shells it's carrying...

  11. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Just select "auto"

    If the statesmen figure on making war a non-human participatory event, they should just computerize the whole thing and pit supercomputer against supercomputer. I know this means far less money in bribes from hardware contractors, but it's so easy to envision these robots going off the rails and causing collateral damage where human warriors might make the odd mistake but, a whole artillery group is unlikely to be hoodwinked into a leveling an old folks housing estate on their side through bad intel from the other side.

    Sci-Fi authors have beat this sort of thing to death already.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      When supercomputers say No ... 00 OK. Pull the Plug on War Profiteering States SpokesPersonnel*

      If the statesmen figure on making war a non-human participatory event, they should just computerize the whole thing and pit supercomputer against supercomputer. ..... MachDiamond

      You nearly got that right, MachDiamond. Supercomputers figure war mongering states personalise sub-human participatory events and are agreed to remove/destroy/kill the problem drivers by any and all means and memes available is not so very wrong. And is a much more entertaining and effective use of available human assets ....

      * One of those "Ok Houston, we've had a problem here but profiteering warriors are now taken care of/annihilated at source and purged from future fields of COSMIC Play" solutions. A quite perfectly clinical no nonsense approach for eradication of deranging destructive cells from humanity.

      And who cares whenever there is no one else somewhere else to try and blame whenever you can say the machine does/did it with ITs Remote Virtual Command of/with AI at the Panels of Controls/Almighty Levers of Power and Energy. The machine certainly doesn't and it and IT are wholly responsible and accountable.

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