back to article MoD judges clone-drone deathmatch

The UK Ministry of Defence expects to announce the winner of its "Grand Challenge" urban-warfare robotics competition tomorrow. The last three days have seen the contending droids - those which came up to the start line in a serviceable condition, anyway - battling it out for the title in a purpose-built small town used by the …


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  1. Parax

    Ducted Fan Vs Coander Saucer...

    Re, The ducted fan type... Although it does use a ducted fan this is not for direct lift, This is actually a very clever coander effect flying saucer, the fan blows down onto the top of an umberella shaped disc. This is similar to the flying sacers that the Germans were developing towards the end of the second world war..

    It is cabable of producing more lift than a direct ducted fan, it also produces very little downdraft, (and dust cloud) as it works by creating a donught of low pressure around the disc. and again as the lift is from the rim not the centre it is more stable than the Direct lift Ducted Fan. Altogether a far cleverer design!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Come off it.

    Oh FFS its Lewis "the UK can do no right" Page.

    Maybe he'd like to take into account the competition isn't so much for the vehicle, its for the intelligence to seek out the different types of threat automatically. Not something you can buy off the shelf Mr Page. This competition is well worth the effort, not just for drawing together various pools of talent to address the challenge, but to do it all in six months.

    Its getting boring how biased this particular author is.

  3. Parax

    Coander Saucer Resources:

    Boffin because, have you seen the site!

  4. Paul Hurst

    finding such enemies before our boys were in danger from them...

    "The idea is that the robots could be deployed ahead of advancing British troops, finding such enemies before our boys were in danger from them."

    So really all the crafts need to do is point at the Americans...

  5. James Pickett

    Reality TV

    "Robo(t)wars with guns"

    Put the competition on TV with premium-rate phone lines for voters, and the pot would be a lot bigger! It might also attract some genuinely original ideas, but the MoD would have to get over their obsession with secrecy...

  6. Anonymous Coward


    "In fact, if our combat troops were corporately given £10m to do what they liked with, they'd be quite likely to simply hire more infantrymen, or pay for more helicopter hours, or buy suitable ground vehicles for the tasks in hand or something like that."

    We get the f'in point. You think UK troups on the ground know better than anyone what they will need in ten years time and spending money on anything that isen't Chinook shaped is a very very bad thing. Now please take your Axe and grind it somewhere else.

  7. Solomon Grundy
    Black Helicopters

    UK Military

    It's funny how fired up the Limey's get when someone pokes fun at their military - I guess that's cause it's so small. I've heard that countries with small armies have some sort of inferiority complex, like short people or men with little willy's.

    In point of fact the article is quite correct in that the fighting men don't really get too excited about all the fancy tech that's being given/forced to them. They would rather have more troops, helicopters, etc... But the political machine doesn't care about the troops - it only cares if it looks like it cares about the troops.

    Besides, enemy sensing robots are a really, really bad idea. (I know you've seen the movies) I'm surprised any El Reg reader would support it. I mean, no computer really works well; giving one the "ability" to make a distinction between friend/foe is utter stupidity. More GI's, more guns on the ground, and less politics.

  8. Zmodem

    meh - better off with

    a mini jet engine. sucking air through the top. blasting air out the sides through valves to move fast in any direction. then fly around with a car alarm sounding inside

  9. StopthePropaganda

    Article title is inaccurate and disappointing!!

    there's no weapons!:( You're gonna promise robot "deathmatch", Mr. Page, then we want guns (or bombs)..and robots shooting each other....I'm disappointed! :P

    Not even pointy sticks?!

    Though this sounds like what a few co-workers and I are trying to set up-an "extreme" class of robot wars-where the arena is an isolated concrete structure or an unpopulated island, and all spectators are by camera.

    Weight limited to one ton. Flight altitude limited to 50 meters, only rules are: no deliberate targetting of cameras, and all weapon effects (fire, radiation, electrical, etc) must be down to "safe" levels within one hour after firing. No lame "style" points either. The match is over when all but one of the robots cannot move and inflict damage upon it's opponent(s). Maybe a 15 minute time limit to keep people from developing "hide bots" or something stupid.

    No limits on power sources ( unless a ruptured power supply violates the One Hour Safe rule) and weapons effects need to be limited to the Arena. Theatre missiles okay but ICBMs are right out. lasers, fire, acids, rail guns, grenades, whatever you can pack in under the weight limit. DU might get an exception to the "safe" rule...

    None of these mamby-pamby DARPA challenges where things just drive around-IIRC they're not even allowed to deliberately run each other off the road...and wimpy MoD contests where the most powerful weapon is a camera? Not even a laser for painting targets for airstrikes? C'mon people..think of the *potential*!

    Now get out there, Mr. Page, and bring us more robots with guns! :)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul Hurst

    Well done for a friendly fire joke! Let's keep up the mirth!

    "A royal marine shot dead by another British soldier in Afghanistan was the victim of inadequate training procedures which led to the "friendly fire" incident, an inquest has found." - The Independent 15 Aug

  11. BenN
    Black Helicopters


    I was on one of the teams (Silicon Valley Group) until January this year when I changed jobs. Whilst the majority of the hardware on show may not be extremely innovative, a lot of the effort from the teams is going into the software, aiming to make it as easy as possible for an operator to identify, confirm or just acknowledge the threat. A large part of the Grand Challenge is to automate the threat detection, so the rovers need to navigate (mostly) automatically, identify threats (mostly) automatically and make sure the operators know about these threats in the most timely manner.

    There's also the point to make that the teams aren't given the largest amount of funding ever. I know my team would have (metaphorically) killed to be able to add more hardware, just to be able to demonstrate more of the software elements that were planned.

    Just because the hardware isn't new, don't assume the ideas are old as well.

  12. Chris G Silver badge


    Knowing where the enemy is in advance so that you don't stumble upon him unwittingly and get shot, is called intelligence so finding him remotely is a good thing. However, finding him with a large noisy aerial object will allow the enemy to know that you know where he is so after having shot down your piece of expensive flying kit he will then go and hide. Result ? just spent several squaddies worth of kit to find out the enemy can shoot down your flying spies and you still don't know where they are, only where they were when they shot it down. That is why the guys on the ground are not always too impressed with hi-tech kit. Having had the spy shot down now means that someone has to continue lugging whatever was used to control and communicate with the thing and if the opposition were doing their jobs they have triangulated on your signal, whether it was encrypted or not doesn't matter they only want to know where you are, now they do and all it cost them was whatever they shot the spy down with. Probably cheaper than the spy in the sky. In ten years time that won't have changed.

  13. Taryn East


    "The "Tumbleweed" air vehicle, for instance, is a multi-rotor hovering electro-copter with a difference. The final version will have a spherical structure, enabling it to "roll along the ground and even up walls," according to its Manchester Uni designers, and "perch and stare from suitable urban structures". The tumbling ball-copter should be able to fit through doors, and have a price tag such that losing a few would be no problem."

    anyone else think this sounds like the giant white ball "robot" from "The prisoner" (AKA "Rover")? all it needs is to be able to latch onto and suffocate/electroshock fleshy targets!

  14. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Ducted Fan Vs Coander Saucer...

    <Homer>Duck in coriander sauce mmmaaaahhhhh......</Homer>

  15. Anony mouse

    anyone else... that as "Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Sport."

    There's some I'd like to see

  16. yeah, right.


    So long as the money goes to research, it probably won't be completely wasted. That said, I like the idea of putting up as a "Death match with guns" and setting premium lines for betting, voting, or deciding which politician gets thrown into the ring next.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ yeah, right.

    "deciding which politician gets thrown into the ring next"

    what, watching politicians getting killed in enyertaining ways?

    I'd pay to see that!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    @Chris G

    "just spent several squaddies worth of kit to find out the enemy can shoot down your flying spies and you still don't know where they are, only where they were when they shot it down"

    I have a buddy in this comp and thats exactly the aim! Its not several squaddies worth of kit - its circa £1,500 per vehicle - the majority of the "inteligence" isnt on the vehicle, its on the laptop / server thats controlling the vehicle.

    The goal is, risk £1,500 piece of kit - worst case scenario, you lose the kit, but its still achieved its job of saving a soldiers life by allerting them to a threat.

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