Pocket-sized drones are set to investigate future chemical or bio-hazards, after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the winners of an innovation challenge.

As part of a collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, the Defence Secretary has awarded funding to a range of small-and-medium-sized-enterprises (SMEs) with high-tech concepts to assess potentially hazardous scenes.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“With intensifying threats abroad and the risk of accidents at home, we need the very latest technology to respond to any incident. Competitions like this with our £800 million Innovation Fund will ensure Britain has the latest in cutting-edge technology needed help keep us safe.”

The Defence Secretary made the announcement on the back of chairing the quarterly Defence Suppliers Forum last week, which brings together prime contractors, international companies and SMEs.

The Minister for Security Ben Wallace said:

“This competition has the potential to see world-class equipment created to support the emergency services when they arrive on the scene of an incident.

Through this funding, the Government is able to collaborate with academics and the private sector to turn these innovative ideas into front-line tools.”

According to a press release received earlier, the winners were:

  • Snake Eyes, produced by Autonomous Devices Limited in Milton Keynes, which is small enough to be posted through a letter box and relay 3D images of a space and can detect chemical agents.
  • Bath-based BMT Defence Services, who have designed an unmanned aerial vehicle with high-tech gas-sensing technology.
  • Horiba Mira, based in Nuneaton, which has a robot with its own neural networks which can deploy on decontamination missions.
  • Loughborough University, with a pocket-sized drone which can search for chemicals.

Defence contractors recently started utilising small drone aircraft in order to survey Royal Navy ships, starting with Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond at Portsmouth Naval Base.


The drone was trialled with HMS Diamond in Portsmouth
A drone was trialled with HMS Diamond in Portsmouth

Small camera equipped drones use high-definition imagery to assess the material state of the vessel and remove the need for scaffolding and cherry-pickers meaning surveys can be carried out in hours rather than days and with fewer people.

Diamond’s commanding officer, Commander Marcus Hember, said:

“I am delighted Diamond could assist in such an important trial. The Royal Navy is an advanced high-tech service and the ability to reduce time and cost during these maintenance periods, as well as allowing ships to diagnose their own defects at sea, will enhance the operational capability and flexibility of the navy deployed worldwide.”

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4 years ago

Brilliant use of new technology and this is only the beginning, within ten years many military operations will be carried out entirely by drones. As for other applications, the police will use them extensively for monitoring traffic conditions, and law enforcement. It’s highly possible they will become a regular sight in our local skies, and even fly 20 hours a day around our homes as the eye in the sky security linked directly to police drones?

Mike Saul
Mike Saul
4 years ago

Shame the army is cutting 300 plus desert Hawk mini drones from its strength in 2020.

4 years ago

This is a step in the right direction especially after disbanding the dedicated CBRN (NBC for the older crowd) Falcon Squadron RTR in 2010, only to reform it last year.
Google: The British Army’s Chemical Warfare U-Turn

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 years ago
Reply to  farouk

The CBRN Regiment was a separate entity to Falcon Squadron. That reads as if Falcon Squadron was the CBRN regiment, which is was not.
Falcon Squadron RTR is the replacement for the CBRN Regiment using the legacy Fuchs vehicles.
Meanwhile 20 Wing RAF Regiment probably gets the chop.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 years ago

By that I mean 1 RTR assets were combined with 26/27 Sqns RAF Regiment.