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QinetiQ graduate led team deliver innovative unmanned air vehicle as part of the MOD ‘Grand Challenge’ initiative


UAV can fly ‘conventionally’ but also hover, vertically land / take-off and acts as ground sensor

A team, led by a number of recently qualified engineers and scientists from QinetiQ’s Cortex early career training scheme, entered and received the Judges Merit Award for its impressive, innovative and highly versatile unmanned air vehicle (UAV) entry in the MOD’s Grand Challenge – a competition designed to encourage younger engineers and scientists to champion the development of 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.

QinetiQ’s Eye-On Grand Challenge entry can take off vertically – so the operator is not exposed, and then transition into conventional flight to provide range and operational duration. This design means that, in addition to being used as a ‘conventional’ UAV, it can go into hover mode or be landed to function as an unattended ground sensor. The sensor and imaging payload can be pre configured using a number of existing technologies to meet user requirements. It can remain on station and then take off again (unattended) and either be recovered back to base or continue to perform as a UAV or a ground sensor at another location.

Powered by twin electric motors, the airframe is extremely manoeuvrable, stable, efficient, robust and durable. Designed using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, it uses tried, tested and secure communications links. A low-cost solution, it is also light weight, easily scaleable from the current wingspan of about 1.5m, highly portable, and can be operated for long durations.

“This innovative Eye-On UAV reflects our expertise in solution design. This illustrates QinetiQ’s approach to solving specific problems and very importantly demonstrates what can be achieved by enthused individuals given the freedom and support to design and apply technology,” explained Neil Irvine, MD of QinetiQ’s Managed Services business. “Through Cortex, all parts of our business can gain access to the new talent and skills pool while the new employees quickly learn about the wide scope of QinetiQ’s business, plus can actively contribute to developing new business ideas and customer offerings.”

QinetiQ’s Cortex led team has developed the solution drawing on a wide range of skills, expertise, resources and technologies from across the company but with much of the work being carried out in their own time. The trials in August were designed to validate each entry’s ability to detect and identify real and potential threats and relay this information back to the operator to enable executive decisions to be made to mitigate them.

QinetiQ’s Cortex programme is a key aspect of its graduate and apprentice development activities and primarily exists to engage with early-career employees (typically during the first two or three years with the company), providing them with formal mentoring and access to areas beyond their own business groups with the aim of promoting exchanges across disciplines.

The Grand Challenge called for 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 to be created. Open to the whole UK science and technology base, large and small companies, research laboratories and academic science faculties, around 10 entries made it through to the final stage of the competition and the MOD is keen to see the best solutions developed quickly into equipment for the UK Armed Forces.

Team Stellar was named the overall winner and received the RJ Mitchell Trophy. Additional commendations for teams that impressed the judges in other areas during the competition went to Team MIRA for its Autonomy; Team Swarm for its innovative idea; and Team Thales for its imaginative use of national talent.


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