The British military is looking to embrace future technologies with open arms, as it’s planning to invest some 800 million pounds ($1.03 billion) in speculative technologies including insect-sized drones, laser firearms, and virtual reality goggles. Students and industry participants will be allowed to pitch their ideas to the new Innovation and Research Insights Unit (IRIS) which will be responsible for doling out the development fund.
The idea with this new division appears to be to experiment and take more risks with what sort of technology the military approves for testing and ultimately usage.
“This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries,” said defense secretary Michael Fallon.
Some of the specific technologies that the U.K. is said to be looking to explore include micro-drones that could be used to investigate incident zones like chemical spills and natural disasters, as well as sensors which utilize gravity to provide maps of underground structures (as per Ars), which could have a big impact when hunting for hidden enemies.
Virtual reality technology for calling in simulated air strikes is also being considered, as is laser weaponry. We aren’t quite talking Covenant plasma rifles, but more like the high-intensity laser weapons that have been used elsewhere to disrupt aircraft and missiles.
To give this some context, the U.S. has allocated $4.61 billion for drone-related spending in the FY17 budget proposal, so considering this investment is to take place over the next 10 years, the British spending is far smaller. However, considering the overall military budget of the U.K. is also 12 times less than that of the U.S., $1.03 billion in investment in future technologies is nothing to sniff at.
The budget will be allocated as and when the new IRIS initiative decides, and will extend to investment in infrastructure, challenges, demonstrations and communications platforms to aid development. This will take place as part of the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) accelerator program, which the MoD is currently seeking feedback on. Members of industry, academic institutions and the general public are all encouraged to provide their thoughts.
If you’d like to provide your input to the MoD, you can sign up here.