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12 May, 2020 - 10:31 By Tony Quested

Plextek DTS wins defence deals to fast track AVs in challenging environments

Cambridge defence technology innovator Plextek DTS has been awarded two contracts under the latest Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) challenge to boost how autonomous vehicles and systems operate in challenging environments.

The first contract is to develop a prototype directional radar transponder that will help guide a radar-equipped unmanned vehicle to navigate challenging environments. 

The concept has some analogy to the way cats eyes work in the road to aid vehicle navigation in the dark. The advantage of a radar equivalent is that it can operate over much greater ranges, is largely unaffected by obscurants such as rain, fog and smoke, and can encode information in the returned signal. 

The concept is likely to be used in applications such as ship to shore replenishment and front line military resupply using drones.

The second contract is to develop advanced machine learning algorithms to enable an autonomous platform to navigate and understand the scene ahead using high-resolution radar. 

Whilst there has been much effort in recent years to develop such algorithms for camera systems mounted on autonomous vehicles, the performance tends to degrade in harsh conditions, particularly when visibility is reduced. 

A radar will provide greater ability to ’see’ through rain, fog or smoke than a camera system but will tend to provide less resolution. Plextek’s algorithms will address this problem to ensure autonomous platforms can always navigate safely and understand their surroundings using advanced radar systems.

In total, DASA awarded 21 contracts worth £2.1 million to SMEs last month for improving autonomous vehicles and systems operating in challenging environments.

Plextek DTS is thriving on several fronts under the auspices of business development director Peter Doig.

The company helps government agencies, defence suppliers and military stakeholders find new technology exploitation paths to support UK forces. It specialises in the design and development of novel sensing systems to support remote and autonomous operation. 

Plextek DTS also provides specialist R & D support, technology exploitation and design partner services, including system supply and manufacture. It has a strong track record of developing advanced solutions to meet the challenges and needs of the modern infantry soldier. 

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