Britain’s Royal Air Force is set to trial Kar-Go, an autonomous delivery vehicle, at its Brize Norton base.
The futuristic-looking Kar-Go bot, which features open wheels and a teardrop-shaped body, will deliver tools, equipment and supplies across the airfield.
A safety team will be monitoring the vehicle the whole time from a “mobile command hub” and will be able to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
“Bringing self-driving technology onto a base offers many advantages. Ultimately, we could see fleets of autonomous vehicles with different autonomy levels delivering supplies, spares, tools, food and also providing airfield services such as aircraft fuelling, runway sweeping and snow and ice clearance,” says Squadron Leader Tony Seston.
“However, we must ensure we introduce this in a way that is secure and safe for our personnel. We see this trial as our first steps into understanding how we can deliver this vision safely,” he continues.
The trial is part-funded by the RAF’s Astra programme, an internal project designed to scope out the future of the service.
RAF Brize Norton is the largest airforce base in the country and, according to Group Captain Emily Flynn, the station commander, Kar-Go should allow troops to get on with important work.
“Last month, we saw a fantastic response from our teams, putting extra hours in and giving up leave to help the Afghan rescue missions. That’s the sort of work our aviators want to be able to focus on and in situations like this, every minute we save can save a life,” she says.
“This trial is part of a continued programme to take away the mundane tasks that cause added stress and inconvenience for our people, to help our highly-trained personnel to do the jobs they joined the RAF to do and to do them to the best of their ability.”
Kar-Go was created by the Academy of Robotics and, in the mind of CEO and founder William Sachiti, airforce base deliveries are the perfect example of the bot’s capabilities.
“Moving goods securely around a site is a major challenge for almost all large organisations and although we have optimised everything we do to be able to do trials like this where the technology can complement the core work taking place on large industrial sites, every site has its own nuances and challenges,” he says.
“The fact that we have designed and built every aspect of the self-driving system -from the vehicle to the software and the mobile command centre- has been a huge benefit here giving us complete control and making it much easier to adapt it to the specific integration challenges of the environment we are operating in.
Following this first trial, the RAF will review the findings carefully and look at how it can be scaled effectively as part of their continued commitment to bringing innovation into the RAF.