• An Australian submarine enters Jervis Bay during a visit to the East Australian Exercise Area. Defence
    An Australian submarine enters Jervis Bay during a visit to the East Australian Exercise Area. Defence

Thales will sponsor a PhD at the University of SA’s Behaviour Brain Body Research Centre to look at artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to the future of anti-submarine warfare.

The research is a joint UK-Australia initiative that will help to optimise AI within complex maritime combat systems in support of human operators.

The results from the research will be integrated into spiral capability improvements for Thales’s sonar technology. Combat systems operators and their well-being will be key to the research project.

The goal of the PhD will be to find ways to ensure that the operator remains central in the maritime mission system as increased levels of autonomy and automation are introduced into service. While systems benefit from increasing levels of automation, understanding the impact on operators, their behaviour, fatigue and sleep patterns remains essential.

According to Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins, the research is another step in a long-term program of collaboration and co-development of world-leading sonar solutions for both surface ships and submarines.

“We have been working closely with the UK in the area of sensor development for sonar arrays for over ten years,” Jenkins said. “This collaboration between Thales and UniSA will extend our collaboration into inboard systems.”

As Australia’s maritime environment becomes more congested, the effective use of advanced AI will help operators to maintain their optimum level of effectiveness during periods of sleep loss, fatigue and high or low workloads.

UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor David Lloyd said the university is delighted to be supporting the PhD, where defence research capability is growing to meet the needs of a burgeoning defence industry sector in SA.

“UniSA’s Behaviour Brain Body Research Centre has developed partnerships over many years across a range of industries including aviation, long-haul transport and defence sectors to study fatigue and human performance,” Professor Lloyd said.

“As defence and other industries increasingly integrate AI systems, expert research from the Centre will help to inform how people work best in these new environments, optimising operational performance and ensuring worker wellbeing.”

CEO of Thales UK Victor Chavez said the research could be used in the Royal Navy’s upcoming platform and maritime combat system procurements.

“I’m delighted to extend our joint work with Australia in this critical area,” Chavez says.

“We rely on strong academic partnerships to ensure we stay at the forefront of this technology in the UK, and we recognise the leading contribution that UniSA’s Behaviour Brain Body Research Centre can bring to both our nations’ anti-submarine warfare solutions.”

The PhD will be supervised by Associate Professor Siobhan Banks, co-director of UniSA’s Behaviour Brain Body Research Centre, whose research examines the intersection between technology, human behaviour and fatigue.

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