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The Royal Air Force Launches First Trial of Self-Driving Technology on Its Airbases With Academy of Robotics

LONDON–() –Academy of Robotics and the Royal Air Force announced a new test deployment of autonomous vehicles at an air base as part of the RAF’s Astra campaign to provide the next generation of Air Force capabilities. This attempt marks the first time that autonomous vehicles have been deployed by the RAF at a British air force base.

In the study, the Academy of Robotics’ Kar-go Delivery Bot delivers tools, equipment and supplies to locations within RAF Brize Norton near Oxford. RAF personnel then go out to pick up the vehicle and a hatch is automatically released for them to pick up the package.

During the trial, the vehicles will carry out autonomous and semi-autonomous procedures, with a security team being monitored from a mobile command center. This unique Remote Command Hub is a secure mobile unit that can monitor all aspects of vehicle operations. From this facility, the team can also take control of the vehicle remotely if necessary.

For safety reasons, only trained and authorized personnel can move goods at an air force base, but the use of safe, autonomous vehicles could provide valuable support to the skilled personnel and give them time to concentrate on the core tasks for which they have been trained. Because the vehicles are electric, the technology also opens up opportunities to reduce harmful emissions and help the RAF accomplish its mission of achieving net zero by 2040.

Partly financed by the RAF Astra programWith the British start-up Academy of Robotics completing the investment, the test is the first stage to understand and examine the potential of using autonomous delivery vehicles to support the work of RAF personnel.

In addition to the large-scale projects and programs, the Astra program aims to involve the entire force of regulars, reserves, civilians and contractors in change by identifying the barriers that prevent progress – be they big or small -, and overcome them by working smarter, innovating internally and with Defense partners to create the right environment for ideas to flourish.

Squadron Leader Tony Seston, RAF Engineer and Astra Ambassador commented:

“Bringing self-driving technology to a base offers many advantages. Ultimately, we were able to see fleets of autonomous vehicles with different levels of autonomy, delivering supplies, spare parts, tools, groceries, and also providing airport services such as aircraft refueling, runway sweeping, and snow and ice removal. Our recruits receive first-class training. If new technologies can help enable them to use this training as effectively as possible, we need to consider how we can integrate them into our current processes. However, we need to make sure that we implement this in a way that is safe for our staff. We see this study as our first step in understanding how we can safely implement this vision. “

Bases such as RAF Brize Norton support operations around the world and across the UK, including teams standing by around the clock to support humanitarian efforts worldwide and provide military assistance to civil authorities in the UK

Group Captain Emily Flynn, station commander at RAF Brize Norton commented:

“Over the past month we have had a fantastic response from our teams who have invested extra hours and given up vacations to help the Afghan rescue missions. This is the kind of work our pilots can focus on and in situations like this, every minute we save can save a life. This study is part of an ongoing program to eliminate the day-to-day tasks that add stress and inconvenience to our people in order to help our highly skilled employees do the jobs they have joined the RAF for and do them to the best of their ability do ability. “

While extensive pre-scanning and data collection is typical to train autonomous vehicles on a given route to teach them to perceive the various features of that route, due to safety constraints the team had to invent a proprietary system to minimize data collection and allow the vehicle to to navigate safely without this training. In addition, the team had to face some new challenges unique to airport driving and teaching the AI to learn new behaviors like stopping at a green light at an airfield.

The Kar-go delivery vehicle is just one part of a complete autonomous technology system developed by the UK’s leading technology company, the Academy of Robotics.

William Sachiti, CEO and Founder of the Academy of Robotics, stated:

“The safe transport of goods at one location is a major challenge for almost all large companies, with its own nuances and challenges. The fact that we have developed and built all aspects of the self-driving system – from the vehicle to the software to the mobile command center – is a great advantage here as we have full control and it is much easier to adapt it to the specific circumstances adapt integration challenges of the environment in which we operate.

This study marks the culmination of months of close collaboration and planning with the RAF, and it has been a great privilege to work with teams that are so committed and committed to helping others. We hope that with this study we have taken a big step to help them do even more for those in need around the world. “

After that first attempt, the RAF will carefully review the results and consider how they can be effectively scaled as part of its ongoing commitment to bringing innovation to the RAF.

Squadron Leader Tony Seston added:

“We are proud to be able to work with a leading UK technology company to help them understand and address the specific challenges of working at an active air base and to advance this use of self-driving technology. Having worked so closely with the Academy of Robotics team on this project, we are confident that the findings from the study will help us design and develop processes to provide smarter logistics that meet the needs of an Air Force the next generation. “

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