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'Ring-wing' robo-sub smart swarm lands £6m oil deal

MoD uninterested in Brit ring-bot sniffers, though

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Not from BAE? No vast workforce you might lay off? Don't go bothering the MoD

Unsurprisingly given the firm's genesis and the fact it is exhibiting at DSEi, however, it also has its eyes on military customers - both for its various undersea designs and its possible future aircraft versions.

Hamilton thinks the ring-wing subs' excellent speed and efficiency - combined with strong hovering performance - could automate the sniffing out of mines in difficult shallow waters and surf zones. More conventional remote-operated vehicles have already largely done this for offshore minefields, relegating mine-clearance divers to certain special tasks, but clearance close inshore is difficult for regular subdroids. Hamilton also says that ring-wings could be useful in towed-sonar and other naval apps.

Then there's the option of getting up out of the water and flying ring-wings in the air. GO has "uRaptor" designs both for a twin ducted-fan job like the RHyVAU or an unpowered ring-glider. Both would use a somewhat flattened shape compared to the underwater jobs, according to Hamilton, and would offer various advantages over more conventional airframes - such as almost-vertical takeoff combined with good cruise efficiency and quietness. Unlike the subsea versions, which have had a fair bit of wet testing already, the airborne machines have only flown in computers - but Hamilton says it wouldn't cost a fortune to see if they're as good in the air as they are in silicon.

Any chance of manned versions?

"We did think of that," says Hamilton. But it seems that development costs would be prohibitive - it's a lot easier to start with unmanned systems.

As to whether the firm is having any luck with the Ministry of Defence - with at least one minister who is supposedly intensely focused on helping British techbiz as well as on fighting wars - Hamilton says "it seems to be a lot harder to break into this kind of market" [as opposed to commercial sectors].

Even though this would appear to be a not-uncommon case of a British SME with a potentially good military idea not already done in America, as usual there seems to be little interest from the MoD. Mr Gosling and his crew, having lost the advantage of BAE Systems' huge marketing machine and the company's almost inexplicably-powerful Whitehall clout, seem thus far to have been frozen out.

"We're still a very small company, around twenty people," says Hamilton, providing a further clue to the firm's difficulty in getting through doors in Westminster. A standard BAE Systems ploy in getting its products funded by the MoD is a threat to fire a large number of workers if no money can be found, something which GO Science is in no position to do. ®

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