MILAN — A prominent European robotics program came to a close last month, with lead contractor Milrem Robotics celebrating the results while awaiting the verdict of a European Union security review over its new owners in the United Arab Emirates.

The Modular Unmanned Ground System (iMUGS) program, led by the Estonian company along with a dozen consortium members from across the EU, completed all contractual activities and reached its objectives in May 2023, Milrem said in a statement.

“During iMUGS the consortium demonstrated that unmanned systems play a crucial role in military environments and scenarios, paving the way for wider adoption and use of these systems in the near future,” said Milrem CEO Kuldar Väärsi.

The project, whose goal was to deliver a standard architecture for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) to the European Commission, lasted 30 months. On April 26, the sixth and final iMUGS demonstration was held at the San Juan del Viso military grounds in Madrid, Spain.

At the closing event, two modified THeMIS vehicles, Milrem’s reference platform for the program, were used to showcase their capabilities at the individual level, without operator involvement, and in swarming operations.

The culmination of the project takes place against the backdrop of a pending security review by the European Commission. The probe evaluates Milrem’s claims that its recent takeover by EDGE Group won’t harm EU security interests in the context of defense-cooperation projects like iMUGS and possible follow-on endeavors.

The assessment, which began in March, is still “in progress and ongoing, with no announcement at this stage,” an EU official told Defense News this week.

Few details have been released regarding an envisaged second phase of the iMUGS project. Thus far, all new information has regarded its peer initiative, the Integrated Unmanned Ground Systems 2 (IUGS2). That project which is part of the bloc’s PESCO cooperation scheme, which is, at least in theory, about governments teaming up on capability improvements as opposed to contractors taking the lead.

Led by Milrem’s home government Estonia, it involves nine EU countries, and its objective is to produce a UGV capable of manned-unmanned and unmanned-unmanned teaming with other autonomous robotic platforms as well as manned main battle tanks.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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