Just when voices are being raised for stronger European defence, the European Defence Agency (EDA) is showing the way by putting money where its mouth is. For the first time it is financing defence research projects and has put €1.4m into three such projects carefully chosen from amongst 21 submitted by 12 countries. Each is getting some €433,000, doubtless just a drop in the ocean of the €155bn allocated annually for the overall functioning of the European Union, but this drop is “an important test bed for more defence research funded from the EU budget in the future,” said Jorge Domecq who heads the EDA.
The first of the three projects, SPIDER, aims to provide a proof of concept for an innovative system to improve soldiers’ inside building awareness by introducing into buildings miniaturized sensors which can move and change position. The proposed system will be composed of a static outdoor subsystem and a mobile indoor one which will send the information gathered by video cameras and depth sensors, amongst others, to a station which will construct an indoor map of the building. By visualizing the indoor map, soldiers will gain crucial awareness enabling them to safely navigate inside the building. The system will be designed to be highly robust to endure operation in hostile environments. SPIDER is a project undertaken by a consortium directed by Portugal’s TEKEVER and composed of IT-Aveiro (Portugal), Aralia (Spain) and the Bulgarian Defence Institute.
The second project, TRAWA, aims to develop the necessary standards to create an affordable detection and avoidance system useable on-board remotely piloted air systems (RPASs). In addition, a method will be provided to identify which RPAS types can be integrated into airspace together with other aircraft categories, and vice versa. The project is directed by the Dutch Aerospace Centre in partnership with its German counterpart, Italy’s Deep Blue, UK company Tony Henley Consulting and EuroUSC (Italy).
As for the EuroSWARM project, it will try and demonstrate that typical military missions can be undertaken by a “swarm” of autonomous robotised systems by using emerging technologies. By making airborne, ground and naval robots work together with sensors and static and mobile protection systems – and excluding all weapons – EuroSWARM hopes to encourage wider use of these robots to enable Europe to meet some of its current major challenges, such as border surveillance. The EuroSWARM project is directed by a consortium made up of Cranfield University (UK), France’s national office for aerospace studies and research ONERA, Sweden’s FOI research agency and the University of Patras (Greece).
Entirely run and managed by EDA on behalf of the European Commission, these projects are already underway and should be completed by November 2017 for SPIDER and EuroSWARM and by May 2018 for TRAWA.
“EU funding for defence research was almost inconceivable a few years ago for EU institutions, Member States and the defence community. This Pilot Project is therefore the precursor of a new era,” said Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director General for the EU’s Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs directorate general.