DSEI 2021 — a valuable and successful edition for the Defence & Security supply chain

21 Sep 2021

The 2021 edition of DSEI was of particular interest to the global Defence & Security supply chain and its members. It served as the first face-to-face/hybrid event for the sector. This inspired quite an excitement and relief among the industry delegates and visitors. It also showed the importance of such formats. This is due to such events allowing attendees to forge personal contacts. Additionally, it enables them to examine the latest kit live. DSEI also marked the successful restart of the face-to-face events for the UK despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 edition of the event was in a hybrid format and took place at ExCeL London between 14.09.2021 and 17.09.2021. It consisted of a face-to-face fair and a complementing digital platform. The Edition showcased a diverse range of innovations and featured new additions. It took place among strict anti-Covid-19 measures. DSEI 2021 featured 64 national delegations.

DSEI 2021 took place as a hybrid event. It consisted of an in-person exhibition and a complementing digital platform. The online portal was known as DSEI Connect. The platform allowed attendants to access live-streamed on-demand content. This included the live keynote speeches. Furthermore, the online portal provided the option to find potential business partners. The platform also featured the option to arrange in-person or virtual meetings.

The in-person aspects of the event had strict COVID-19 prevention measures in place. Among the measures was the obligation for visitors to provide proof of vaccination. As an alternative, they could opt to provide negative test results. The measures also included a system of coloured wristbands. Visitors could see the other's level of confidence when it came to physical contact. This was done via a system of coloured wristbands. Her Majesty's Government invited a total of 64 national delegates and global organisations. Among them were:

Angola, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, NATO, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (UAE), USA, Vietnam

Of the mentioned organisations and nations, many opted to attend in person. Such included NATO, the UAE, the USA, Spain, and South Africa. Others who visited in person were South Korea, Turkey, Singapore, Peru, and New Zealand.

DSEI 2021 had several themes. Integrated Response to Future Threats, with a focus placed on Multi-Domain Integration, was the central theme. Other themes included Information Exploitation as well as Obtaining & Retaining Skills. They also included Future Operational Requirements, and Industry Engagement & Acquisition. The Multi-Domain Integration was the focus theme of the first day of the event. This included General Sir Patrick Sanders addressing the subject in his keynote address. During the speech, he discussed the matter of integrating systems and intelligence across 5 domains. These were air, land, sea, cyber and space. This is necessary to achieve several important goals, such as:

  • Persistent national strategic advantage
  • Integration by design and instinct
  • More efficient use of defence resources
  • Faster, better decision-making
  • Culture change
  • Collaborating for Success

Each of the days also addressed one or more of the themes. For instance, the third day of the fair focused on the future of defence.

DSEI often serves as the main hub for presenting premier defence & security innovations. The 2021 edition once again fulfilled this role by presenting around 1000 novelties. Such included stratospheric airships containing hypersonic drones presented by the Royal Navy. These autonomous UAVs can be launched at a short notice from a high-altitude airship. Such drones would then land on water and submerge. They would then re-emerge and strike hostile warships, using forward-mounted rail guns. Another such innovation was the presentation of counter-drone directed-energy weapons for ground vehicles.

Among the most curious of the prototypes was a mind-controlled weapon system. This was presented by Tony White, the Chief Technology Officer of Ultra Electronics. The system consists of a “tiara” that reads and interprets thoughts via brain electrical activity. At first, the technology will permit soldiers to tune radios and control small UAVs while keeping their hands free. At present, the BCI acknowledges 15 different commands that enable navigating context-sensitive menus. The BCI additionally measures wellbeing, stress, excitement, and interest.

The event itself also featured several new additions. This includes being able to visit 5 military naval vessels at the exhibition. Four of them were from the Royal Navy and one was the BNS Pollux from Belgium. Another interesting addition was the Waterborne Demonstrations. These allowed exhibitors to show their capabilities using the River Thames. Attendees could view the demonstrations from a special grandstand. Each presentation received a live broadcast across the exhibition halls. Another novelty was the creation of the Future Tech Hub. It was where attendees could observe the latest cyber and information technology developments.

DSEI 2021 was considered a success by both organisers and attendants. This included the national delegations that attended. The next in-person edition of the fair will take place in 2023 at ExCeL London between 12.09.2023 and 15.09.2023.