Philip Smart | Adelaide
For an object lesson in how harnessing data can solve real world problems, Lockheed Martin’s Melbourne based STELaRLab offers a powerful snapshot.
On Wednesday the Science, Technology, Engineering Leadership, Research Laboratory (STELaRLab) celebrated its first year since inception with a visit from Federal Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne and a demonstration day for defence media.
The lab’s initial three-year $13 million investment is designed to combine Lockheed’s global resources with experienced Australian defence industry specialists and university research departments, to solve problems Lockheed Martin believes will have a material impact on Australia’s future defence.
The lab’s initial work has concentrated on C4ISR and situational awareness. But the practical applications of data and algorithms are manifesting in applications from military C4ISR to autonomous aerial firefighting, space object monitoring and greenhouse gas modelling.
Lockheed Martin’s demonstrations included elements of its integrated joint battle management system being developed to answer the ADF’s Air 6500 requirement, an algorithm for converting sources such as Google Maps images to 3D data for autonomous aerial firefighting helicopters, and systems for mapping and extrapolating potential confliction between objects in orbit.
Dr Tony Lindsay talks about the STELaRLab. Credit: Lockheed Martin via YouTube
Former Defence scientist Dr. Tony Lindsay is STELaRLab’s director. He believes the combination of Lockheed Martin’s global resources and Australian talent will produce systems that help defend Australia’s interests.
“We can reach back [in to Lockheed Martin] and not have to reinvent the wheel,” Lindsay told ADM. “Australians are very, very good at what they do. We have capacity to influence global thinking on some of the programs we're working on. But we don’t have the resources to waste money.”
The lab is the first Lockheed Martin facility of its type outside the US, which Lindsay believes is testament to Australia’s education system and the pool of talent available.
“There are 330,000 students in this area alone. Take a Melbourne and a Monash and put them together and you’ve got a Stanford or a Harvard. It’s here.
“We just signed a $360,000 deal with Melbourne University for post doctoral studies in C4ISR advanced algorithms and we’re hot on the heels of doing another one in another area in machine learning.
“Proximity helps but we’re hopeful to have those kinds of strategic longer term relationships with some key universities across the nation.”
STELaRLab has some initial targets, but the emphasis is on establishing an ongoing research presence.
“The things that matter are information integration, better and faster utilisation of information. So there are lot of things Lockheed Martin could do,” Lindsay said. “The ones that could make the most difference in Australia are the ones I’ve kind of honed in on. I would like to be able to deliver very effectively the next generation systems to earn the right to take higher risks and do the generation after next.”