In the world of modern warfare, innovation knows no bounds. Australian companies Black Sky Aerospace and Funnel Web Systems have recently unveiled a groundbreaking creation that promises to reshape the future of combat. Named “Funnel Web,” this remotely-operated portable unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is not your typical robot. It’s armed, rugged, and designed to give soldiers a tactical edge while keeping them out of harm’s way.
Changing the Game
Robots have traditionally been used for a variety of purposes, including sensing, carrying loads, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks. However, Funnel Web – aptly named after the deadly Australian spider – takes robotics to a whole new level by giving them “fangs,” as described by Black Sky’s CEO, Blake Nikolic. The primary goal of this innovation is to save lives by allowing soldiers to launch missiles from a safe distance, minimizing exposure to counter-battery fire.
“People think of robots as sensor platforms, load carriers, and for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks: but we give them fangs,” said Nikolic in a statement.
The concept behind Funnel Web is simple yet powerful. It can be deployed into areas that are either too risky or inaccessible for human soldiers. Once in position, it patiently waits for targets to reveal themselves, and when the time is right, it can remotely launch missiles tailored to the specific use case, geography, and desired effects.
“The Funnel Web can push into new areas and wait for targets to present, and then be command-launched remotely. The rockets themselves can be tailored to the intended use, geography and required effects,” Nikolic added.
Funnel Web UGV: Key Features
Funnel Web boasts a range of impressive features that set it apart from conventional UGVs. Its compact yet rugged design makes it highly mobile and easily deployable. Operators control it through a remotely operated hand-held device, allowing them to make real-time decisions about weapon launches based on video feedback from the UGV’s camera.
Accordingly, the system is capable of firing 60mm by 900mm munitions, with the potential for developing variants that can handle different calibers, adding versatility to its arsenal.
A Potential Solution for Ukraine
As the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to evolve, the need for innovative solutions becomes increasingly evident. Ukrainian defense representatives have been closely monitoring the development of Funnel Web and are considering its deployment in the war-torn region. Funnel Web Systems’ head of systems engineering, Andre Preller, emphasized the importance of reacting swiftly to evolving threats and opportunities, citing the need for an innovation cycle that takes weeks rather than years—a capability that Funnel Web Systems excels at.
Black Sky Aerospace’s CEO, James Baker, highlighted the urgency of developing game-changing technologies in today’s global security landscape. He revealed that the development process, from concept to launch, took less than a week, thanks to their vast private testing grounds in Australia.
“With the urgent international security situation in our own region of the Indo-Pacific, Defence innovations need to get proven or rejected in days and weeks, not years,” said Baker, further stating, “We have vast private ranges In Australia – one of them is three million acres – so we use our own testing grounds where ideas can be validated or vetoed at speed.”
The Road to Innovation
The unveiling of Funnel Web follows Black Sky Aerospace’s previous achievements in rocket innovation. In December 2022, the company successfully launched guided weapons from a standard commercial utility vehicle and, in early 2023, from a flatbed Unimog. These milestones reinforce the company’s commitment to rapid development and its ability to respond swiftly to emerging challenges.
Australia's Black Sky Aerospace and Funnel Web Systems are considering the possibility of supplying Kiev with an unmanned ground robot with remote control Funnel Web.
— ChinasCanada (@ChinasCanada) September 11, 2023
Defining Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs)
For those unfamiliar with the world of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), it’s essential to understand their role and significance. UGVs are vehicles that operate on the ground without human presence on board. Equipped with sensors, they can observe their environment and make autonomous decisions or relay information to human operators who control them remotely. They serve a wide range of purposes, from mundane tasks to dangerous missions, and they’re an integral part of modern robotics used in both civilian and military applications.
In conclusion, the unveiling of Funnel Web marks a significant milestone in the realm of military technology. This armed UGV has the potential to revolutionize warfare by providing a safe and effective means of launching missiles in high-risk environments. The importance of rapid innovation and deployment cannot be overstated as the world witnesses the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Funnel Web represents a shining example of how cutting-edge technology can save lives and redefine the battlefield. With its ability to react swiftly to evolving threats, it stands ready to make a difference in the most challenging and dangerous of circumstances.