The consortium headed by the Estonian UGV maker includes defence, communications and cybersecurity companies from across Europe and ‘high technology SMEs’. The funding was awarded through the European Commission’s European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).

The 14 parties involved in the project are Milrem, GT Cyber Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense, NEXTER Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Diehl Defence, Bittium Wireless, Insta DefSec, (Un)Manned, dotOcean, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, GMV Aerospace and Defence, the Estonian Military Academy and Royal Military Academy of Belgium.

Based on Milrem’s existing TheMIS UGV, the project aims to develop a modular and scalable architecture for unmanned systems that will be part of a standardised Europe-wide ecosystem of ‘aerial and ground platforms, command, control and communication equipment, sensors, payloads, and algorithms.’

The total cost of the integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System (iMUGS) project is projected to be €32.6m, the bulk of which is being provided through European Commission funding. The result of the project will be tested in exercises with several member states military exercises.

Commenting on the funding, Milrem Robotics CEO Kuldar Väärsi said: “Robotic and autonomous systems will tremendously enhance defence and military capabilities in the coming years all around the world.

“iMUGS is an excellent example of how Europe can utilise and develop high-end technologies as a joint effort while avoiding scattering activities and resources.”

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Väärsi welcomed the European Defence Funding, adding that it showed how Europe was ‘efficiently consolidating the requirements of EU member states’ and improving European industries’ ability to increase its defence capabilities and build autonomy.

Väärsi added: “The European industry is determined and ready to provide efficient and deployable technologies already over the next three years in the course of this project,”

The iMUGS project is being led by Estonia, with technical requirements agreed by Finland, Latvia, Germany, Belgium, France, and Spain. The rest of the project’s funding is being sourced from these member states.

In a press release, Milrem said: “During the project, operational know-how will be gathered and concepts for the combined engagement of manned and unmanned assets developed, while considering the ethical aspects applicable to robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems. State-of-the-art virtual and constructive simulation environments will also be set up.”

The European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) is designed to build the European Union’s strategic autonomy in the defence industry and build cooperation between member states industrial bases and militaries.

Priorities for EDIDP include the development of artificial intelligence systems, cyber technologies and novel ground combat capabilities.