Estonia and Milrem Robotics will start work on a project aimed at developing the European standard unmanned ground system (UGS). A consortium comprised of several major European defence, communication and cybersecurity companies and SMEs and the European Commission signed the grant agreement for the €32.6 million Integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System (iMUGS) in December.
Requirements for the standardised UGS have been set by seven EU member states: Estonia, which is leading the project; Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia and Spain. The named countries are collectively financing €2 million of the €32.6 million budget.
“Nothing on a similar scale has been conducted before,” said Martin Jõesaar, chief of the Project Office at the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment. “Our goal is not only making iMUGS a one-time effort, but to build it into a base project for future developments. Our long-term goal is that each of the modular systems built, will pave the way for further innovation in its field,”
“iMUGS is an excellent example of co-operation in Europe: seven countries have created common requirements for a future robotic system and have a common understanding of how the system is to be deployed,” said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics. |iMUGS will be a modular and scalable solution that will not only fill the needs of European customers, but will also be deployable worldwide.
iMUGS participants include Milrem Robotics (project co-ordinator), GT Cyber Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense, NEXTER Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Diehl Defence, Bittium, Insta DefSec, (Un)Manned, dotOcean, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, GMV Aerospace and Defence, and the Royal Military Academy of Belgium.
Europe is expected to acquire thousands of UGS in the next 10-15 years growing the value of the market into billions of euros. With seven participating nations and key industrial players, the UGS developed during iMUGS is expected to become the preferred European solution for integrating into armed units.
iMUGS will also develop a modular and scalable architecture for hybrid manned-unmanned systems, standardising a European-wide ecosystem for aerial and ground platforms, command, control and communication equipment, sensors, payloads, and algorithms. Addressed operational challenges include enhanced interoperability, increased situational awareness and faster decision-making. The system will be based on Milrem Robotics’ UGS THeMIS and a specific list of payloads.
The outcome of the project will be demonstrated in operational environments and relevant climatic conditions as part of participating member states' military exercises or at separate testing events. The first demonstration is planned for the second quarter of 2021 and will be held in Estonia.
During the project operational know-how will be gathered and concepts for the combined engagement of manned and unmanned assets developed, while considering the ethical aspects applicable to robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Virtual and constructive simulation environments for specific missions will also be set up. The system developed will be under “meaningful human control.”
The objectives of the EDIDP programme are to contribute to the strategic autonomy of the European Union and to strengthen co-operation between EU member states. Priorities include enabling high-end operations of military forces with a 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.
The integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System aims to increase the protection, survivability and situational awareness of ground forces.