Plextek DTS has been awarded two contracts under the latest Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) challenge to boost how autonomous vehicles and systems operate in challenging environments.
The first contract is to develop a prototype directional radar transponder that will help guide a radar-equipped unmanned vehicle to navigate challenging environments. The concept has some analogy to the way cats-eyes work in the road to aid vehicle navigation in the dark.
The advantage of a radar equivalent is that it can operate over much greater ranges, is largely unaffected by obscurants such as rain, fog and smoke, and can encode information in the returned signal. The concept is likely to be used in applications such as ship-shore replenishment and front-line military resupply using drones.
The second contract is to develop advanced machine learning algorithms to enable an autonomous platform to navigate and understand the scene ahead using high-resolution radar. Whilst there has been much effort in recent years to develop such algorithms for camera systems mounted on autonomous vehicles, the performance tends to degrade in harsh conditions, particularly when visibility is reduced.
A radar will provide greater ability to ’see’ through rain, fog or smoke than a camera system but will tend to provide less resolution. Plextek’s algorithms will address this problem to ensure autonomous platforms can always navigate safely and understand their surroundings using advanced radar systems.
In total, DASA awarded 21 contracts worth £2.1 milion to small and medium businesses last month for improving autonomous vehicles and systems operating in challenging environments.