Flying saucers to invade Wiltshire

FLYING saucers will invade Wiltshire this summer as part of a competition to find the country's top robotics talent.

The unmanned craft will be joined by tri-blade helicopters and moonbuggies as part of a Ministry of Defence initiative to help UK troops seek out enemy threats.

The hi-tech devices, which have been developed by business and university teams, will be on display in central London this week, but will be tested at Copehill Down on Salisbury Plain in August.

Equipped with cameras and sensors, the robots are designed to detect and identify a range of threats in an urban environment, including armed combatants, snipers and roadside bombs.

The information is fed back to a control centre, in some cases a handheld computer or mobile phone, where commanders on the ground can decide what action to take.

The Grand Challenge competition aims to give an opening for new suppliers and investors in the UK defence market.

Eleven teams have made it to the final, including a helicopter that can send live video feed back to special glasses worn by its controller.

There is also a buggy that fires out flying saucers able to record what is going on above buildings or round corners.

A radio-controlled buggy and a swarm of small monitoring helicopters, each weighing less than 1kg, are some of the other designs through to the final.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Baroness Ann Taylor, said: "It is vital that the latest technologies are rapidly incorporated into equipment for our troops."

The finalists will show their capabilities at Copehill Down, which has been specially built for urban warfare training.

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