Estonia, together with the ministries of defence of Finland and Latvia, is planning to develop unmanned land systems within the framework of the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation. Germany, France and Belgium have also expressed interest in joining the project.
‘The same considerable growth that we saw with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) 10-15 years ago can be expected in the near future for unmanned land platforms. The project’s ambition is, in cooperation with partners, to develop a solution for unmanned land systems, which would become the European standard,' said Kusti Salm, Director of the Defence Investments Department at the Ministry of Defence.
An unmanned land vehicle, along with an autonomous control system, cyber defence solution and integrated network of sensors, will be developed within the framework of the project. The system’s initial functions are associated with improving situational awareness on the battlefield and raising the level of efficiency of the manoeuvring and transportation capabilities of troops.
The result must be a reliable companion for a soldier on the battlefield, one that would increase his decision-making speed, reduce the load he is carrying, and increase his endurance and defence.
‘A reliable system is not exclusively vehicle oriented. True innovation emerges from the autonomous control system, and integration with sensors and other manned and unmanned platforms, such as UAVs, radars, control points, etc.’, added Salm.
A total of EUR 30-40 million has been earmarked for use from the European Defence Fund, with participating countries also set to make a contribution. The start date for the planned project is the first half of 2019.
In preparation for the project, Estonia has started, under the leadership of the Estonian National Defence College, a research and development project for raising the tactical level of unit combat capabilities for unmanned systems, which is being implemented in cooperation with the nine members of the Estonian defence industry consortium.
The unmanned land system development project was submitted to the second application round for PESCO projects.
The approval of EU ministers of defence is required in order to start projects that are being carried out within the framework of the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation.