It’s time for another round of the government version of Shark Tank. Drones disguised as dragonflies and mosquitos, virtual reality helmets, or anything else that looks “futuristic” may have an opportunity to receive some big funding.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) has announced that the government has launched a new defense innovation project. The MOD will invite technology startups to pitch their product before a Shark Tank style panel, in a bid to obtain new high tech tools.
When the panel has chosen companies to invest in, the MOD will work with them to create targeted solutions, says the announcement. “A dedicated hub will act as a ‘defence and security accelerator’, ensuring that innovative solutions to our most pressing national security challenges are developed at pace to stay ahead of our adversaries.”
The initiative is designed not only to encourage the development of new technologies, but to shift the culture of the MOD towards greater flexibility and collaboration with industry. “This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries.” said Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. “Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”
A “dragonfly drone,” – a tiny drone with flapping wings -currently in development with Animal Dynamics is one of the programs initial projects. The government says that it could use the micro drone as a surveillance tool in crowded or urban environments. The MOD is also launching a new competition with the Home Office, which will challenge the British high tech industry to design drones that can “assess hazardous scenes, such as sites contaminated by chemical and biological hazards.” This challenge is an addition to an innovation challenge issued jointly by the UK and the US to “speed up the impact that robotic and autonomous systems could have on resupplying armies.”
As governments across the globe realize the impact that unmanned systems of all sizes can have on the military, funding for similar programs has increased dramatically. The programs are seen as a win-win scenario for taxpayers, offering a combination of enhanced security and a boost to the economy, by providing funding for high tech startups.