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First EU Pilot Project in the field of defence research sees grant agreements signed for €1.4 million

Grants agreements worth a total of €1.4 million were signed today 28 October at the European Defence Agency (EDA) for three selected research activities to be carried out under the EU’s first Pilot Project in the field of defence research.

The grant agreements were signed at the European Defence Agency in presence of EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq, European Commission Deputy Director General Pierre Delsaux (DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) and representatives of the three winner consortia.

Uncharted territory – An EU first

The signing marks an important step in EU defence integration since it’s the first time that the European Union is testing the conditions for defence research in an EU framework, funded by the EU budget.

The Pilot Project also paves the way for the launch, in 2017, of the European Commission’s Preparatory Action (PA) on defence research which, in turn, leads to a fully-fledged European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) as part of the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027). All of them - Pilot Project, Preparatory Action and the future European Defence Research Programme - should support R&T that is serving capability priorities identified by Member States in the Capability Development Plan and be taken up in future collaborative capability programmes.

DG GROW Deputy Director General Pierre Delsaux said: "EU funding for defence research was almost inconceivable a few years ago for EU institutions, Member States and the defence community. This Pilot Project is therefore the precursor of a new era."

Mr Delsaux thanked the European Parliament for its support on the Pilot Project and underlined that a lot of effort and intensive work done by both from the Commission and the EDA, to make the Pilot Project work. He also explained that there is still a long way ahead for EU funded defence research and that "the Commission, in accordance with its institutional role and in full compliance with the EU legal context, is ready to work on defining the optimal framework and overseeing the implementation of the defence research priorities set by the Member States."

EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq said: “Today’s signing marks an important milestone and opens a new chapter in the way defence research is funded in Europe. The European Parliament, the European Commission and the EDA have worked together, hand in hand, to set up this Pilot Project which is an important test bed for more defence research funded from the EU budget in the future”.

He particularly thanked German MEP Michael Gahler and other members of the European Parliament’s SEDE committee whose relentless efforts back in 2014 resulted in the EP earmarking funding for an EU Pilot Project in the field of defence research for the first time ever. “The EDA is now looking forward to advancing the activities and making the Pilot Project a success”.

Mr Domecq stressed the “additional boost” EU funding possibilities, such as the Pilot Project and the upcoming Preparatory Action, will give to defence R&T by complementing national research programmes and existing cooperative funding schemes. “Using the EU budget for funding defence R&T will help to generate critical mass, to network European research entities and to increase interoperability and standards. The Pilot Project has already shown to what extent EU funding in conjunction with priorities set by Member States at intergovernmental level can be a powerful catalyst to attract Primes and SMEs, Research Centers and Academia, from big and small Member States. Research in defence also has concrete and profitable spill-over effects for everyday life”, he said. “R&T is not nice-to-have. It is an essential prerequisite to develop the required defence capabilities of the future and thus to provide for our citizen’s security”, the EDA Chief Executive concluded.

EDA call for proposal

The three activities were selected following an EU-wide call for proposals organized by the EDA between 23 March and 23 June 2016. They cover the following topics:

  • Inside Building Awareness and Navigation for Urban Warfare (SPIDER) - Grant: €433.225

 The objective of this activity is to provide a proof of concept for an innovative system to improve soldiers’ inside building awareness by introducing into buildings miniaturized sensors which can move and change position to provide better coverage and improved performance. The activity will analyse the possibilities that new technologies and pioneering concepts provide to this aim. The proposed system will be composed by two distinct sensor subsystems: a static outdoor subsystem (a network of radiofrequency sensors that can recognize humans inside the building) and a mobile indoor subsystem which will be based on mobile robots capable of sensing the interior of the building using video camera and range-finding sensors such as depth sensors. The robots will be controlled by operators through a secure communication system. A separate station will receive all information obtained by both outdoor and indoor sensors to reconstruct an indoor map of the building. By visualizing the indoor map, the soldiers will have a crucial awareness enabling them to safely navigate inside the building. The system will be designed to be highly robust to endure operation in hostile environments.

This activity was won by a consortium led by TEKEVER, a Portuguese technology company, and composed of IT Aveiro - Instituto de Telecomunicações (Portugal), Aralia (UK) and the Bulgarian Defence Institute (BDI).

  • Standardisation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Detect and Avoid (TRAWA) - Grant: €433.292

 The aim of this activity is to contribute to the development of standards for a performant and affordable detect and avoid (DAA) system usable on-board Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). In concrete terms, it will specify ‘well clear’ boundaries in exact terms so that specifications for DAA technical systems can be derived from them. It will also develop requirements for remote pilot HMI (Human Machine Interface) characteristics. In addition, a method will be provided through which it can be identified which RPAS types can be integrated into airspace together with other aircraft categories, and vice versa, given their DAA technology capabilities. The proposed solution will be complementary with on-going European activities of the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE), Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in this field. It will in particular follow the EUROCAE ED78a standardisation process. The activity is an enabler for the widespread use of RPAS in non-segregated airspace in Europe because it supports the development of standards for the certification of DAA solutions and helps to identify technology capabilities which need to be developed by the European defence industry.

This activity was won by a consortium led by the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR) with the following partners: the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR), Deep Blue (Italy), Tony Henley Consulting (UK) and EuroUSC (Italy).

  • Unmanned Heterogeneous Swarm of Sensor Platforms (EuroSWARM) - Grant: €434.000

This activity will demonstrate, through a live experimentation, that typical military missions and tasks can be performed in exemplary scenarios by an unmanned, autonomous and heterogeneous ‘swarm’ system of systems, using emerging enabling technologies.

EuroSWARM’s main objectives are: - to develop key techniques for adaptive, informative and reconfigurable operations of unmanned heterogeneous swarm systems, namely: optimal task allocation and resource management; sensor fusion, cooperative guidance, robust sensor network; - to integrate the developed enabling techniques; - to validate the developed enabling techniques based on empirical simulation studies; - to demonstrate the proposed solutions based on a small scale of experiments.    

The activity is expected to deliver a control & command architecture for autonomous and heterogeneous swarms of sensors. The architecture will host a wide variety of piloted and autonomous swarm elements, such as unmanned air/ground/naval platforms, steerable mast, unattended remote-controlled sensors, protective devices (laser, jammer, smoke generators etc.). Any kind of weaponry is excluded from the system. Using static/mobile sensors and vehicles in an unmanned swarm-based autonomous system such as EuroSWARM can become a pilot for large scale usage to deal with critical European and global challenges such as border control or surveillance-security.

The activity was won by a consortium led by the University of Cranfield (UK) which also includes the French aerospace research agency ONERA (Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales), the Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI and the University of Patras (Greece).    

Pilot Project implementation

The signing of the grant agreements fires the starting shot for the implementation phase of the three activities as off 1 November 2016. SPIDER and EuroSWARM will be delivered after 12 months (November 2017) while TRAWA will run for 18 months (May 2018).

The Pilot Project is run and managed by the EDA on behalf of the European Commission based on a delegation agreement signed between the Agency and the Commission in November 2015. As a result, the EDA is responsible for the project’s implementation and management.

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