Technology first developed for use at Sellafield could be used to help the British Army carry out reconnaissance over water more safely.

Global consultancy Jacobs is part of the team selected by the Ministry of Defence to devise a new system to help the British Army cross water in hostile territory.

It won the project as part of the MOD’s ‘Map the Gap’ competition, which asked the private sector to develop methods for scouting and planning crossings without the need for dangerous reconnaissance missions.

The project uses the same model of remotely operated vehicle - and the same data analytics - to those used in Jacobs’ proposed system for decommissioning highly radioactive cells formerly used for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing at Sellafield’s Thorp plant.

It uses Jacobs’ 6th Sense data analytics system, which was developed to create high-fidelity 3D maps of legacy radioactive facilities before they are decommissioned.

Jacobs’ concept uses a semi-autonomous remote system that can collect the required information without the need to deploy soldiers to the potential crossing location.

Ground surveys can be carried out using a submersible remotely operated vehicle carrying data sensors, soil sampling tools and sonar equipment.

The system processes data in real time, helping military engineers to understand how the riverbed, mudflats and banks will take the weight of a temporary bridge and armoured vehicles.

“We are looking forward to developing a new capability which will enable units like the Royal Engineers to carry out vital reconnaissance tasks without putting personnel at risk,” says Jacobs critical mission solutions international senior vice president Clive White.

“We often borrow technology and techniques from other sectors to apply in the nuclear industry, so it is good to see this technology transfer process going in the opposite direction.

“This is another example of the mutually beneficial relationships we are building with innovative small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The MOD’s Defence and Security Accelerator, which ran the competition on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, will now fund further research into the development of the technology.

The winning competition entry was led by Digital Concepts Engineering, which developed the rugged X2 ROV, drone providers Frazer-Nash Consultancy, and Eijkelkamp Geopoint SoilSolutions, a company which specialises in ground sampling technology.

Jacobs and Digital Concepts Engineering first paired the 6th Sense data analytics system with an X2 ROV last year when they won a competition, funded by Innovate UK and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to find new ways to decommission highly radioactive former reprocessing facilities at the Sellafield nuclear site.