Feeds

MoD opens urban-warfare compo

Design ambush-sniffing tech and win a barrel of pork

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) yesterday opened its "Grand Challenge", an inventors' competition designed "to create a system with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor, and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment".

As if this wasn't difficult enough, "its use should not alert the enemy as to the proximity of friendly troops; it should have a low visual and acoustic signature and it should either exhibit good resistance to countermeasures or be an easily replaceable consumable item".

The winner of the contest will receive a valuable barrel of pork contract to develop the system, and also the new "R J Mitchell Trophy", named after the designer of the WWII Spitfire fighter.

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson said: "R J Mitchell was an innovator whose bold Spitfire design went on to play a key role...I truly believe the MoD with the cutting edge of British scientists and engineers can capture the spirit of innovation that drove R J Mitchell, and provide a critical capability to the UK Armed Forces."

The MoD also says "the R J Mitchell Trophy [is] suitably relevant given the immense innovation shown by R J Mitchell in developing the Spitfire – initially created as the Supermarine Seaplane to win the Schneider Trophy."

The Schneider Trophy, of course, was set up by a wealthy Frenchman. And Mitchell's most famous Schneider winner, the Supermarine S6b of 1931, was actually refused funding by the British government. It's not clear quite what message the MoD wants to send here; but Grand Challenge entry rules allow contenders to put together entries at their own expense, so perhaps the historical allusions are appropriate.

There is also a separate, more complicated protocol under which a competitor can apply for MoD development funding. The deadline for applications is 15 May in either case. Both funded and unfunded entries will compete in a "grand finale" during summer 2008, to be held in an Army urban-combat training area.

The winning system will be expected to sniff out roadside bombs, rocket-propelled-grenade ambushes, snipers, and suchlike urban-combat threats. It will be expected to answer questions such as: "What waits at the next intersection? What lies round the corner of the next building or concealed in houses or behind rooftop parapets?"

Some military traditionalists might suggest that these are questions that can really only be answered by putting a lot of troops on the ground in the form of surveillance teams, observation posts, intelligence units, and foot patrols. British troops, however, are in short supply at the moment.

In any case, the UK government seems keen to move away from a labour-intensive approach to soldiering and towards a capital-intensive, technology-driven one. This has been illustrated by recent cuts to the infantry and the announcement of £2bn in funds for the FIST wearable-tech project.

The Grand Challenge should make interesting watching, if nothing else. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Microsoft builds teleporter weapon to send VMware into Azure
Updated Virtual Machine Converter now converts Linux VMs too
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.