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19 Aug 08. The MoD has announced 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.

The Stellar Team comprises Stellar Services Ltd, Blue Bear Systems, Cranfield University, SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems Ltd, TRW Conekt, and Marshall Specialist Vehicles.

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. They follow in the footsteps of RJ Mitchell, a great British inventor who pushed back the frontiers of science to develop the prototype of the Spitfire. It is this type of vision and dedication which makes the United Kingdom a world leader in science and technology.

“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.”

MSV provided the Ground Vehicle, one of the key elements of the Saturn offering, which was required to enter hazardous areas, autonomously navigate its way around and identify likely hazards and threats to friendly forces. The competition was carried out in adverse weather conditions on Salisbury Plain, a factor which was instrumental in reducing the number of competitors that completed the challenge.

In designing and delivering the vehicle, MSV had to deploy their core skills including; system configuration, vehicle dynamics, all terrain mobility and robust, rugged engineering. Integration of sensor and other electronics, as well as software for management and logic systems, were key skills provided by MSV. These attributes had to be integrated with semi autonomous navigation. This required project management and system design skills to bring the whole project to a successful conclusion.

Peter Callaghan, CEO of MSV said “MSV through its technology and capability centre Marshall System Design Group (MSDG) set out to use state of the art capability in the most agile way to achieve this difficult target in a really cost effective way. This is a system that can be rapidly taken forward int

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