Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

27 management functions needed in the Digital Backbone were designed to the highest functional safety standards present in the automotive world. In 2016, the company developed a key partnership with the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR), considered by many to be one of the leading robotics research institutes in the world. Despite having spearheaded the development of numerous globally successful robotic systems from its facilities in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering over many decades, the ACFR needed additional resources to design and engineer purpose-built, software-defined vehicles from scratch. The Applied EV team developed two such vehicles, going on to deliver them in late 2016 and early 2017, and such was the ACFR’s satisfaction that it continues to use those vehicles today. “The Australian Centre for Field Robotics was our first customer, and our experiences with them immediately validated what we had already suspected: there had been a lot of big, missed opportunities and [there was] a market need for the kinds of products we were developing,” Broadbent says. “Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to hold multiple senior positions at General Motors. Largely, my role was about understanding trends in customer behaviour and technology to develop business cases for future programmes.” Through that understanding, amid the journey taken by Broadbent and his team to develop the Digital Backbone as a system that could turn traditional vehicles into autonomousready systems, they were confronted with the reality that many prospective autonomous vehicle developers were stuck working with automakers who were focused on rapid delivery of a minimum viable product (MVP), and worse, they wanted it to be built on legacy development and production lines. Incumbent players and their suppliers are therefore taking an evolutionary approach, which is ultimately designed to build only on pre-existing capabilities, leverage only well-established development processes and protect sunk development costs, Broadbent says. This is a logical approach in many ways, especially in terms of leapfrogging cost barriers, such as investing in and establishing new production lines. One may think, for example, of Toyota rejigging a pre-existing manufacturing line to mass-produce automotive hydrogen fuel cells. But, in Broadbent’s view, it fails to capture the real, long-term potential of autonomous systems. “Ultimately, an incremental approach will not extract the true value of software, and the key question is: is an autonomous system truly autonomous if there is a safety driver sitting at the Applied EV Blanc Robot UGV | Dossier The key question is: is an autonomous system truly autonomous if there is a safety driver at the controls, ready to take over in case of an emergency? Uncrewed Systems Technology | April/May 2024 Having estimated that 50% of vehicle costs stem from the driver-cockpit area, Applied EV has engineered the Blanc Robot as a cockpit-less platform for making fully uncrewed UGVs