Frontline troops could benefit from tech innovations such as a surveillance drone that can stay airborne for three months
The Ministry Of Defence has given a glimpse of some high-tech military equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in the laboratory of James Bond’s famous quartermaster Q.
Showcased this week at the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) in Harwell, Oxfordshire, the devices include an unmanned surveillance system dubbed “Little Owl” that could stay airborne for up to three months, thanks to an innovative “buoyancy propulsion system” and the use of so-called conductive textiles as a way improve the efficiency of powering weapons, radios or charging batteries.
Minister for Strategic Defence Acquisition Reform, Lord Drayson, said the UK companies behind the devices have given UK forces a “battle-winning edge” in current and future conflicts. “The Centre for Defence Enterprise is a bridge for small and medium companies, academics and others to contact the Ministry of Defence with their innovation ideas,” he said. “We have already awarded £8 million worth of contracts through the Centre for Defence Enterprise and the centre has recently received the 1,000th research proposal, which gives an indication of the popularity of working with the CDE.”
Head of the Centre for Defence Enterprise – which provides funding for military-tech projects – Dr Helen Almey said that over 60 percent of the contracts funded through the CDE have been awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises. “It is important for our future capabilities to interact with all potential defence suppliers, no matter how big or small the company. We also receive innovative ideas from academics and talented people.”
Also showcased at the event was a system developed by Southampton University that captures exhaust gases from diesel engines and uses the heat to generate more power, and research from Guilford-based Waterfall Solutions into 3D surveillance systems.
Last month, the Ministry of Defence announced that it has received its 1000th submission to the Centre for Defence Enterprise. One project that has benefited from CDE funding is Bubblephone, based at the Innovation Centre of the University of Sussex, which was awarded £49,000 for its C-THRU technology. The MOD states that Bubblephone allows network connections to be maintained despite changes in the environment and also prioritises network traffic.