BAE Systems says it will lead a team of scientists to develop miniature robots intended to improve military battlefield intelligence.

The US$38m contract, awarded by the US Army Research Laboratory, will see the company lead a team of researchers from the army, academia and industry called the Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance.

MAST will research and develop advanced robotic equipment for use in urban environments and complex terrain, such as mountains and caves.

The alliance will create an autonomous, multifunctional collection of miniature intelligence-gathering robots that can operate in places too inaccessible or dangerous for humans.

MAST will advance fundamental science and technology for future robotic systems in several key areas, including small-scale aeromechanics and ambulation, propulsion, sensing, processing and communications, navigation and control, microdevices and integration, platform packaging, and systems architectures.

The agreement is planned to last five years with an option to extend for an additional five years.

MAST consists of four primary research areas: BAE Systems will lead microsystems integration, the University of Michigan will lead microelectronics, the University of Maryland will lead microsystem mechanics, and the University of Pennsylvania will lead processing for autonomous operation.

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh