EPE, a Brisbane company that develops technologies that allow soldiers to detect mines and dangerous substances from a distance, has secured $300,000 through the Defence Innovation Hub.
“EPE is an Australian SME which is working to protect and save lives on the international stage,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said in a statement. “Small and medium sized firms are every bit a part of our defence industry as our major partners.
“This funding will help EPE to improve its radar technology used to identify and track IEDs.”
EPE has three projects developed through the Hub. The first is the ‘Amulet’ ground penetrating radar integrated onto the Talon unmanned ground vehicle, which is able to clear a one-metre wide safe lane from buried mines and IEDs. The second project is an enhancement to Amulet to allow it to map and mark the explosive threat, which then gives ground commanders options for dealing with that threat, and to reduce its reliance on GPS.
“The TTPs (tactics, techniques, procedures) for mine clearance haven’t changed since World War II,” EPE project manager David Rye told ADM. “So this is all about removing the individual from the danger zone by adding detection capabilities to unmanned ground vehicles.”
According to Rye, the challenge in creating a mine detector robot was integrating two separate operating systems – the ground penetrating radar and the robot - without compromising the performance of either.
“Now that we’ve achieved that, we know this solution is scalable,” Rye said. “This can go much smaller or larger to meet the need specified by the customer.”
The company is aiming to develop a prototype for Defence to trial before the end of 2019.
The third project is the Maritime Portable Raman Improvised Explosive Detector (PRIED), which provides naval boarding parties with the ability to detect narcotics, explosives, homemade explosives (HME), chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals, toxic industrial materials and related chemical precursors from a distance.
“When we first took this out for trial we’d thought we’d get a ten metre stand-off capability at best,” Rye said. “We actually got 50 metres. So that was a pretty good day.”
Whilst the technology holds much promise, Rye told ADM that EPE needs to shrink it so that it can be used in one hand whilst maintaining a stand-off distance of at least ten metres. The company is working with industry partners on the challenge and aims to have a result in the second half of next year.
When asked about whether EPE had plans to export either technology, Rye said that their focus remained local.
“There’s certainly been interest from outside Australia,” Rye said. “But as an Australian company, the ADF remains our core focus.”