Estonia tests unmanned autonomous military vehicles for combat roles

The two-day test saw the participation of uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) from 11 worldwide developers.
Jijo Malayil
Unmanned vehicles being tested for the project
Unmanned vehicles being tested for the project

Estonian Military Academy 

Nations worldwide are scrambling to incorporate new-age technologies to advance their military capabilities in order to stay at the forefront and reduce casualties. 

In this regard, a novel autonomous experiment at the Estonian Military Academy has been conducted, aiming to modernize the military and equip it with the latest autonomous ground systems. The two-day test saw uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) from 11 worldwide developers from nine countries participating. 

The tests aimed to understand the "current status of the autonomous navigation capabilities of unmanned vehicles developed for military use," said a media statement from the Estonian Military Academy. 

An exercise to check their autonomous capabilities

Advancements in technology, especially in AI, have resulted in the transition from robots being remote-controlled platforms to fully autonomous devices that can assess circumstances and devise solutions on their own.

Such advanced systems could be sent into dangerous environments without risking human life. They could also ensure last-mile connectivity to soldiers at the front, which currently relies on lugging food, ammunition, and equipment on someone's back over broken ground. Such a transition can also help to utilize the manpower for more critical tasks. 

Estonia tests unmanned autonomous military vehicles for combat roles
An unmmaned supply vehicle being tested

The event set a platform for firms in the field to exhibit their systems to an international audience of military experts. Each "participating systems go through progressively more complex scenarios, in which the elements necessary for navigation on the road, in the landscape and in the open forest are examined - route planning, moving from point to point, avoiding obstacles."

The tests assessed the technological readiness of dual-purpose unmanned ground systems as well as human-machine collaboration.

"Participating platforms are not ranked, but in cooperation with an international team consisting of specialists in the field, reports are prepared after the event, through which the defense force, partners, and participating companies can receive extensive feedback and input on the latest developments of unmanned ground systems," said Markus Decision, the project coordinator, in the statement.

The Defense Academy spearheaded the project over several months with the support of partners from Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. 

The tests also come as part of its integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System, or iMUGS, project, in which an unmanned ground vehicle with a control system, a cyber defense system, and an integrated sensor network is being developed. 

The system's first operational features focus on enhancing combat situational awareness, unit mobility, and transport capabilities. The iMUGS project's secondary objective is to provide a common approach for an unmanned ground system across Europe.

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