THE grounds of Blenheim Palace will be transformed into a testing ground for futuristic robots.

Old and new will come together as driverless cars and robots with legs stalk the grounds of the Woodstock World Heritage Site as part of a joint initiative with the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI) over the next couple of months.

Leading the way will be a specially adapted Range Rover set to drive around the tracks of High Park – home to the greatest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe.

Paul Newman is the director of ORI, which is part of the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford University.

He said: “The ORI’s collaboration with Blenheim represents the opportunity to join the old with the new, to run and represent in juxtaposition much of what’s great about Oxfordshire’s history and its future.

“Great robots in a great place.”

The adapted Range Rover – developed in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover – is equipped with vision and special sensors which allow ORI to map data in an off-road forest environment.

It will be tested on its ability to perceive its surroundings. Tests will also provide a valuable source of information to those researching the ancient woodland.

The plan is to follow-up on the initial Range Rover tests with other types of robots – including some with legs – on different parts of the estate.

It is hoped the new collaboration between university and palace will provide a unique chance for cutting-edge STEM education and outreach work to be carried out within the historic site.

The aim is to increase awareness of robotics and AI to society in general and also to provide Blenheim Palace’s visitors with a greater understanding of the fast-growing technological sector.

Head of rural enterprises at the palace Roy Cox said: “This is an extremely exciting opportunity for Blenheim to support the Oxford Robotics Institute who are at the forefront of developing technology and it marks the beginning of a much closer relationship between ourselves and university.”