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Government on the hunt for telexistence tech

Defence and Security Accelerator wants several technology innovations that can help people operate in dangerous environments without being physically present – with £500,000 funding available

The UK government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) wants to develop telexistence technology systems, which enable people to remotely operate systems in a hazardous environment.

The accelerator has £500,000 available in funding for several projects in phase one of the competition, and plans to award between £10,000 and £100,000 to each project, but has not set an upper funding limit.

The aim of the technology is to allow military personnel, emergency services and humanitarian workers to operate in dangerous environments without having to be physically present. This includes firefighting, space exploration, chemical, nuclear or biological environments and explosive ordnance disposal.

According to the competition document, the government wants the competition to identify and develop innovation in three technology areas, “with a long-term aim of integrating the components to form a holistic telexistence solution if this has not already been achieved”.

The three areas are haptic technology, which can transmit sensory information from the environment to the person operating the system, telepresence and robotics.

According to the competition document, the aim is to “understand the technical possibilities and potential applications of a telexistence capability for the defence and security community”, increase awareness of the defence and security requirement “within industry and academia”, as well as awareness of the potential of this technology, and to understand technology gaps to allow the Ministry of Defence to target future investment. 

When phase one is complete, DASA envisions a second phase with further funding available.

“Any potential phase two competition will ask suppliers to integrate technologies from the three challenge areas in order to form a full telexistence solution,” the document said.

“Collaboration with suppliers from the other challenge areas would be welcomed. Phase two solutions would be asked to deliver a physical demonstration against a pre-determined test scenario of relevant defence and security tasks.”

The deadline for submissions for the competition is 19 November 2020, and projects must be complete by 31 May 2021.

In August 2020, DASA launched a competition for innovative technologies that can be used by police as an alternative to firearms when stopping armed offenders, with an initial £500,000 funding for phase one, and a further £500,000 available at a later stage.

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