In the week prior to ANZAC Day, Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS), with the support of the Queensland Government, hosted the ‘Accelerating Trusted Autonomous Systems Symposium’ in Townsville.
This gathering included over 200 delegates from Defence, industry and research discussing and exploring advances in Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence (RASAI) for the Defence sector.
The Symposium, opened virtually by the Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Innovation and the Minister for Sport, Stirling Hinchliffe, highlighted the Queensland Smart State Drone Strategy and was closely followed by Major General Mick Ryan and ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer, both making arguments for increased investment in innovating Defence research, particular around RASAI and accelerating the training, education and doctrinal changes to incorporate these technologies into service.
Each ADF service presented on RASAI in their respective domains and delegates were informed of the possibilities for RASAI in Space by TAS partner Cooperative Research Centre, SmartSat. The 'trust' theme was expanded through a visit to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) south of Townsville; hosting an industry preview of ReefWorks, a tropical marine unmanned and autonomous test facility, in addition to briefings of the necessity of autonomous technologies to augment and scale the work achievable by humans alone. This visit to ReefWorks was followed by a brief on the similarly supported Cloncurry UAV test facility, a local initiative with global impact.
Topics on the ethics and law surrounding RASAI, as well as test and evaluation (assurance activities), featured for the second afternoon and included briefings from the Queensland University Law school, the TAS Ethics Uplift Program and TAS National Accreditation Support Facility – Pathfinder project.
The Symposium was also briefed on the Army Robotics Exposition (ARX), held in Brisbane days earlier, with a number of Army delegates joining TAS in Townsville as soon as their ARX duties were complete. The Army Combat Application Lab (CAL) of the Combat Training Centre (CTC) and Dismounted Combat Program (CDP) provided a static display to participants on methods by which RASAI are being incorporated into service, tested against existing techniques, tactics and procedures and mechanisms for feedback in design so capabilities can be improved. The ready availability of these technologies was reinforced by briefings on two completed TAS funded projects from Boeing Phantom Works Emily Hughes and Athena AI’s Stephen Bornstein. Both projects reportedly have the potential to provide new capabilities that improve safety of Defence personnel and non-combatants in addition to significant cost benefits when used in conjunction with combat platforms and capabilities.
In closing the Symposium, TAS CEO Professor Jason Scholz highlighted key points of the program, including Queensland Chief Innovator Dr Sarah Pearson as guest speaker at the Symposium dinner and the many perspectives brought together by this unique gathering. This included, with the support of the Advance Queensland initiative, almost 20 Queensland-based SMEs in the RASAI supply-chain in various industries.