Human-Machine Collaboration in Training & Beyond

Welcome πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ί

Welcome to the 10th issue of the European Resilience Newsletter and thank you to those who already subscribed! Uwe and Jack (more about us at the end) started this newsletter to accelerate the building of the European DefenceTech ecosystem and fill a critical gap in European Resilience. We will keep the content bite-sized, frequent and free. We also openly invite guest content creators to contribute (see below for details on how to join). Our goal is to build an ecosystem of founders, operators, investors, and industry experts who are dedicated to enhancing European resilience through technology.

We are very happy to publish this issue in collaboration with Marc Wietfeld, CEO and Co-Founder of our Portfolio Company ARX. The company is committed to becoming Europe's leader in mobile robotics by redefining cost-effective dual-use technology. ARX developed GEREON, an innovative platform of modular and software-defined unmanned systems / autonomous ground vehicles (UGVs).

Transforming Warfare: Soldiers Collaborating with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) in Training & Simulation and Beyond πŸ›ž

In the evolving landscape of modern warfare, the integration of cutting-edge technologies has become indispensable to ensure the effectiveness and adaptability of military forces. One such development is the collaboration between soldiers and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) in training & simulation which serves as a basis for future force-wide integration and utilisation. This synergy not only enhances the soldiers' skill sets but also welcomes a new era of strategic prowess and operational efficiency. 

ARX, a pioneer in dual-use UGVs, shared these insights gathered from training & simulation with the German Armed Forces over the course of the last few months.

Redefining Training Paradigms:

Traditionally, military training involved simulated scenarios and live exercises to prepare soldiers for the complexities of the battlefield. Through the incorporation of UGVs, the training paradigm has been redefined. Soldiers now find themselves engaged in realistic scenarios where they must seamlessly collaborate with autonomous machines, mirroring the challenges they may face in real combat situations.

Enhanced Situational Awareness:

The integration of UGVs introduces a new dimension to situational awareness. Soldiers learn to leverage the capabilities of unmanned vehicles such as (i) gather intelligence, (ii) scout hostile territories, (iii) and be aware of another component on the battlefield that can fulfil a variety of capabilities. 

Soldiers are constantly on duty, and rest periods are short as they are interrupted by work phases and surveillance tasks. Every patrol that GEREON carries out autonomously and every guard post that its sensor system takes over without the intervention of soldiers relieves the burden on the troops considerably. After a few days in the field, the difference between a troop that had to manage everything alone or "manually" and one that was able to use autonomous unmanned systems for protection and surveillance is clearly noticeable.

Tactical Manoeuvres and Strategy:

UGVs bring a new level of versatility to military operations. Soldiers learn to coordinate tactical manoeuvres with autonomous ground vehicles, executing strategies that capitalise on the strengths of both human and machine. This collaboration fosters a dynamic and adaptive approach to warfare, preparing military forces to respond effectively to the almost unpredictable nature of the real battlefield.

In a training exercise, armoured vehicles have GEREON UGVs drive ahead to detect dangers and obstacles at an early stage while they can still react. GEREON UGVs have triggered many mines, surpassed obstacles and identified ambushes that would otherwise have cost valuable vehicles and soldiers' lives in active deployment. The first "step" into a village or an enemy-occupied section of terrain was no longer taken by the soldiers, but by the GEREON systems. The systems are robust enough to keep up with the armed forces in the field for years, but cost-effective enough to be used as single-use "risk takers".

Risk Mitigation and Adaptability:

By incorporating UGVs in training and simulation, military personnel become adept at mitigating risks associated with certain operations. Soldiers learn to assess situations incorporating the capabilities of UGVS which leads to delegating tasks to autonomous vehicles, allowing for a more calculated and safer execution of missions. 

Once the modularity and versatility of the systems is recognised, the soldiers' self-confidence grows. They know that they can convert the reconnaissance module into a CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation) module in just a few minutes and without tools. The system quickly brings them to safety when they are wounded or fetches "ammunition" when it is running low. This leads to an attitude among the soldiers that shows them that they can react ad-hoc to changing or new challenges and that they are "not alone".

Human-Machine Symbiosis:

The collaboration between soldiers and UGVs emphasises the concept of human-machine symbiosis. Soldiers not only learn to operate and control the UGVs but also develop an understanding of the machine's capabilities, limitations, and potential applications. 

ARX GEREON systems have already been deployed with the troops several times, and it has become clear that the troops and the GEREON systems first had to get to know each other. The troops had to realise what was possible with the systems and what was not. In most cases, however, the troops did not overtax the system, but used it too cautiously and hesitantly, as they were often taught: "This is new technology, so it must be expensive and valuable, and we only have a few of them. An exciting phenomenon that could be observed is that soldiers, for example a reconnaissance and sniper squad that had successfully used GEREON RCS for three days for reconnaissance behind enemy lines, developed a gratitude towards the systems that almost became a "comradeship". The information was so valuable to the soldiers, and its acquisition with the GEREON system so "simple" by comparison, that when one of the systems was immobilised by fire from an enemy tank, they struggled not to "save" it because it was also something of a "comrade".

This "mindset" of "material conservation" has already cost German soldiers their lives, as they had to rescue and recover drones in the field and were ambushed in the process. This is a logic that we do not accept. Unmanned systems are there for the soldiers and not the other way round. The soldiers must be able to rely on the system and not the other way round. The more valuable asset should always be the soldier or the manned system.

Infrastructure-Neutral Deployment for Future Infantry with Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

Soldiers are often in remote locations that are difficult to reach and usually have no or destroyed infrastructure. They also need to get there quickly. Unmanned systems cannot keep up with this, unless they are travelling with them rather than alongside or behind them. Space is limited, and soldiers only take what really brings them added value. It was encouraging to see that other equipment was regularly removed from the vehicles to make room for a GEREON, as the soldiers realised that the system adds more value in the field than other equipment.

A core feature of the GEREON fleet lies in its ease of transportability. Characterised by small size, low weight, and stackability, these UGVs, especially GEREON 2 and GEREON 3, present a novel solution. GEREON 2, in particular, can be disassembled without the need for tools, allowing soldiers to carry it, making it exceptionally versatile for rapid deployment in the field.

Moreover, both GEREON 2 and GEREON 3 effortlessly fit into conventional cars, military off-road vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, or transport tanks. Even the largest member of the fleet, the GEREON RCS, designed to fit into standard transport and delivery vehicles, can be seamlessly mounted on or attached to military combat vehicles, promising adaptability in diverse operational scenarios.

Conclusion:

As technology continues to advance, the collaboration between soldiers and Unmanned Ground Vehicles in training & simulation as a basis for future missions  is indispensable for Western military to stay ahead of the curve. 

This human / autonomous system approach not only prepares soldiers for the challenges of modern warfare but also redefines military strategy and operations completely. 

We have seen the usage of autonomous systems in the Ukraine and how it has changed the very nature of warfare. It has shown that the usage of legacy systems have their place and importance but new technology is being implemented at a breathtaking pace in the operations of Ukrainians. For the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian forces they hold one of the keys for the possibility to win this war. He has gone so far in saying: β€œPerhaps the number one priority here is mastery of an entire arsenal of (relatively) cheap, modern and highly effective, unmanned vehicles and other technological means.

Already such assets allow commanders to monitor the situation on the battlefield in real time, day and night, and in all weather conditions.” 

ARX creates an autonomy-enabled modular, cost-effective and responsive mass of unmanned systems for the armed forces to multiply their operational value, replicate their numbers and scale their capabilities. This minimises the risk for the operational forces and makes it possible to counter a numerically superior enemy with technological superiority. A few hundred Leopard tanks and 35 F-35s alone will not be enough to defend Germany and NATO. A mass of swarm-capable autonomous systems that complement these systems is already a significant step forward.

It is only a matter of time until this development also reaches wide-scale commercial importance where the introduction of tested and proven autonomous systems will act as a multiplier for a variety of use-cases depending on the payloads/sensors mounted on them.

The synergy between human intellect and machine precision marks a transformative chapter in the history of military training, promising a future where the armed forces are not just adaptive but proactive in their approach to the uncertainties of future conflicts.  

πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ Air Street hosting a Munich AI meet-up on February, 22nd

A sincere invite to everyone working on AI across research, engineering, product, design or GTM to join the event

The event will have 4 speakers:

@fms2128 of stealth enterprise automation company, Interloom, and formerly of Hyperscience

@mo_lotfollah, faculty at Sanger Institute and known for his work on AI in multi-modal cellular biology

@TuscherMarc, CTO/co-founder of @SereactAI, pioneers in vision-language models for intuitive robotics

+1 mystery speaker

News That Caught Our Attention πŸ‘€

  • France has budgeted €413 billion euros for the armed forces in its 2024-2030 military programming law, a 40% increase over the previous period. - DefenseNews Link.

  • Air Street Capital released their Guide to AI Part for February, including a very interesting part on the (geo)politics of AI - AirStreet Press Link.

Every week we feature a list interesting roles in European DefenceTech start-ups and scale-ups for readers seeking their next challenge in their careers.

If you are a founder and would like to promote your open roles, please get in touch with us!

Passionate and want to contribute? πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’»

The European Resilience Tech Newsletter is always looking for regular and guest authors, writers, reporters, content creators etc. If you like what you read, you are passionate about improving European resilience regardless of your background and want to contribute, just reach out to us!

European Resilience Tech Newsletter Team

Uwe Horstmann co-founded Project A Ventures in 2012 as General Partner and has built Project A to be a leading European early stage investor with over $1bn USD under management and having backed 100+ founders. In addition to Project A, Uwe serves as Reserve Officer in the German armed forces and advises the German Ministry of Defence in digital transformation issues.

Jack Wang is a software engineer turned product driven tech investor and joined Project A in 2021 to lead the firm’s deep tech investing, which have grown to include DefenceTech. Prior to joining Project A, Jack worked in a variety of organisations such as Amazon and Macquarie Group across Australia, US and UK / Europe. Jack holds a MBA from London Business School and Bachelors of Engineering (Bioinformatics, 1st) from UNSW, Australia.

Project A Ventures is one of the leading early-stage tech investors in Europe with offices in Berlin and London. In addition to 1 billion USD assets under management, Project A supports its 100+ portfolio companies with a platform team over 140 functional experts in key areas such as software and product development, business intelligence, brand, design, marketing, sales and recruiting. Project A have backed founders of Trade Republic, WorldRemit, Sennder, KRY, Spryker, Catawiki, Unmind and Voi as well as founders building in European Resilience: