Last Mile challenge winners announced

Part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Innovation Initiative, the Last Mile challenge winners have been announced.

Supplying troops in challenging environments – often dubbed ‘the last mile’ – using unmanned technology may reduce risk and cost. Therefore, the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) sought find the best solutions to UK defence and security challenges of today and the future.

Over 140 organisations, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises to big defence companies, submitted entries for the Last Mile challenge, including ideas covering online delivery systems and futuristic unmanned vehicles.

In total, 24 projects were chosen as winners, with a total contract value for the six-month first phase of almost £2 million to advance the technology towards a system solution for ‘tactical resupply in a box’. Winning ideas include autonomous hover-bikes, unmanned air and ground vehicles, novel means of autonomously loading and unloading, navigating and delivery ordering, management and control using ‘uber-like’ and other app-based technologies.

Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement, who announced the winners during her DSEI Keynote Speech, said: "The Last Mile Challenge is a great example of how we are engaging with a real range of businesses and harnessing innovation to help our military right up to the front line. From these autonomous vehicles to next-generation body armour, we are investing our rising defence budget and £178 billion equipment plan in the technology that will keep our Armed Forces and the UK safe."

Peter Stockel, Dstl’s lead for the challenge, said: “The number and quality of the entries for this competition was outstanding and the competition was fierce. We chose the best from across the proposals to enable the system solutions we want for prototype demonstration and evaluation. This was a fully open competition, with many of those down-selected happening to come from the UK. This illustrates the strength of our national capability and the benefit of recent investments in this important and rapidly developing technology sector.

“However, it was great to also be able to pick some great propositions from around the world. The brief is to rapidly demonstrate system solutions which aim to reduce the logistic burden on our Armed Forces, provide new operational capability and reduce casualties; so we’re pleased with the response and keen to see the potential capability benefits being assessed by our military during AWE18.”

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