A Stellar performance

The MoD has announced that Team Stellar is the winner of the Grand Challenge, its major competition to produce a vehicle capable of identifying threats encountered by UK troops on current operations.

Team Stellar beat off six others who qualified for the final competition days to win the RJ Mitchell Trophy - named after the designer of the Spitfire which earned legendary status for its decisive role in the Battle of Britain.

Their entry, SATURN - an integrated system with one high flying and one mini UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), and a UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) with a control station fusing data from visual, thermal and radar sensors - gave them the competition edge.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Baroness Ann Taylor said:

"We are proud to crown Team Stellar the winners of MOD's most prestigious competition for battlefield innovators.”

 "The Grand Challenge has proven a showcase for the wealth of talent that exists in the UK - not just in large Defence firms, but in universities, schools and even garden sheds across the nation. They have brought fresh, exciting ideas to the Defence table which could have battle winning applications for our Armed Forces".

The "Grand Challenge" competition, launched by the MoD in 2006, asked teams to come up with highly autonomous flying and ground vehicles capable of identifying threats such as marksmen, vehicles mounted with heavy weapons, roadside bombs and armed militia.

Out of twenty-three teams who originally applied to the competition, seven qualified for the final held over the last three days at Copehill Down, a village on Salisbury Plain specially built by the military for urban warfare training. Vehicles designed and created by the teams included futuristic-looking flying saucers, buggies and mini-helicopters

Team Stellar was awarded the highest points of any team by a panel of judges, after their vehicles successfully identified a range of threats planted in the village and recreated by actors dressed as militia. Using sophisticated communications systems, their SATURN system was able to relay this information back to the team on the ground.

Stellar Team Leader Julia Richardson said: "I am extremely pleased - we are thrilled - we worked very hard and it is a fantastic result."

In addition, Team Swarm was awarded the prize for the "most innovative idea" after designing a multiple autonomous quadrator (flat helicopter with four rotors) called Owls, capable of flying in swarms, allowing them to view the area from all angles using high resolution visual cameras. Also, Team Thales was awarded a prize for "best use of national talent" for their use of a mini helicopter fitted with daylight and thermal imaging technology alongside two custom built ground vehicles.

The MoD is now carefully considering if technologies demonstrated in the final can be incorporated into future frontline kit for the Armed Forces. It is possible that the winning team will have invented a product that can be developed rapidly for the front line; it is also possible that no single system will offer the perfect solution to the problems faced in theatre today. Therefore, MoD may consider elements of a number of systems if it is believed they could offer rapid technical solutions for the front line.

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