The Royal Air Force has tested the use of self-driving cars to explore ways to free personnel from everyday tasks at military bases.
Employees from RAF Brize Norton, Oxon, partnered with the Academy of Robotics on the study, where the groundbreaking Kar-go Delivery Bot delivers tools, equipment and supplies around the base.
Kar-go, a zero-emission, self-driving delivery vehicle traveling at 60 miles per hour, performs autonomous and semi-autonomous procedures with a security team overseen by a unique mobile command center known as Athena.
When they arrive at their destination on the base, the recipients meet Kar-go and a hatch is automatically released so that they can pick up the parcel.
The “Athena” command center is a secure mobile unit in a converted luxury coach that can monitor all aspects of vehicle use.
From this facility, the team can remotely control the vehicle if necessary from a specially designed command chair, complete with pedals and a steering wheel to reflect a normal driving experience.
The trial, which is partially funded by the RAF’s Astra program, with the British technology start-up Academy of Robotics completing the investment, is the first step in realizing the potential of using autonomous delivery vehicles to support the work of RAF personnel understand and examine.
For safety reasons, normally only trained and authorized personnel can move goods around an air force base, but the use of safe, autonomous vehicles can give them time to focus on the core tasks for which they have been trained.
Squadron Leader Tony Seston, RAF Engineer and Astra Ambassador, said: “There are many advantages to bringing self-propelled technology to a base.
“Ultimately, we were able to see fleets of autonomous vehicles with different levels of autonomy, delivering supplies, spare parts, tools and food, and also offering 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 do this in a safe way for our staff. We see this study as our first step in understanding how we can safely implement this vision. “
Bases like RAF Brize Norton support operations around the world, with teams ready 24/7 to support humanitarian efforts worldwide and provide military assistance to civil authorities in the UK.
Kar-go, which is electric, reduces harmful emissions and can help the RAF zero its mission by 2040.
Group Captain Emily Flynn, station commander at RAF Brize Norton, said, “Last month we saw a fantastic response from our teams who invested extra hours and gave up vacation to help with Afghan rescue missions.
“This is the kind of work our pilots want to focus on and in situations like this, every minute we save can save a life.
“This attempt is part of an ongoing program to eliminate the day-to-day tasks that add stress and inconvenience to our staff, to help our highly skilled staff complete the tasks they have joined the RAF to do and to do their best to do their ability. “
Kar-go is part of a complete autonomous technology system developed by the UK’s leading technology company, the Academy of Robotics.
The RAF is now reviewing the results of the study to see how it can be effectively scaled as part of its ongoing commitment to bringing innovation to the RAF.
William Sachiti, CEO of the Academy of Robotics, said, “Moving goods safely in one location is a major challenge for almost all large companies.
“While we’ve tweaked everything we do to run trials like this, where technology can complement the core work at large industrial sites, each site has its own nuances and challenges.
“The fact that we designed the entire system was a huge advantage here as we have complete control and make it a lot easier to adapt to the specific integration challenges of our environment.
“This study is 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.”