• DST Group engineers retrieve a Slocum Glider as part of the buildup to Exercise Talisman Saber 2013. Trusted autonomous systems research is one of the areas funded under the new scheme. Credit: Defence
    DST Group engineers retrieve a Slocum Glider as part of the buildup to Exercise Talisman Saber 2013. Trusted autonomous systems research is one of the areas funded under the new scheme. Credit: Defence

A Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems, proposed by DST Group late last year, has been given the nod with $50 million in funding to be provided by the Commonwealth.

The Defence CRC is a collaborative program that brings together academia, publicly funded research agencies, industry (particularly SMEs) to create an interlocking research and innovation capability that is focused on driving a Defence outcome.

Minister Pyne said the first Defence CRC will focus on Trusted Autonomous Systems to deliver game-changing unmanned platforms that ensure reliable and effective cooperation between people and machines during dynamic military operations.

“Existing autonomous and robotic systems that operate in the manufacturing and mining sector are effective in controlled environments but not suitable for the uncertain situations in which Defence operates,” Minister Pyne said.

“To be effective, Defence needs autonomous systems to be highly trusted, robust and resilient and this initiative will bring together the best researchers from industry and universities to develop the intelligent military platforms of the future.”

The CRC will comprise a fundamental research program and a functional technology program, together leading to a set of agile capability demonstrators showcasing trusted autonomous systems. The fundamental research program will focus on areas such as machine cognition, human-autonomy integration, and persistent autonomy. The latter concerns managing uncertainty and unpredictability, persistent perception, multi-modal fusion, self-healing systems and aggressive actuation.

The functional technology program will facilitate and integrate the research outcomes into three areas, namely: perception and sensing; effectors and platforms; and intelligent systems.

The capability demonstration program aims to showcase integrated capabilities at a level that is realistic against defence requirements. It will adopt an agile methodology, aiming to rapidly integrate and demonstrate new ideas, theories and technologies from research and technology programs. A critical focus will be on demonstrating trusted and resilient autonomy. Key capability demonstrator areas identified include: wide-area ocean surveillance; counter insurgency operations; cyber-electronic warfare operations; urban and littoral operations; and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations.

The CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems will receive an annual funding of $8 million with a maximum of $50 million over a seven year period.

“I am also pleased to announce that the CRC will be chaired by Mr Jim McDowell, an esteemed businessman who has had an extensive career in the defence industry, and most recently at the University of South Australia,” Minister Pyne said.

“As Chair, Mr McDowell will be responsible for leading the development of the research program and business plan and work with industry on transitioning the research results into capability outcomes.”

This is the first of several CRCs that the Government is announcing with further CRCs will be established in the near future on projects also aligned with the priorities in the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

Defence will be a member of each CRC along with universities, research agencies and industry and participating members will be selected on the basis of their research excellence and technology expertise.

“The CRC environment offers excellent synergies for Defence, industry and universities to collaborate closely on Defence innovation,” Minister Pyne said.

The CRC is an initiative of the Next Generation Technologies Fund which complements the Defence Innovation Hub as the two core initiatives of the new Defence Innovation System outlined in the Government’s Defence Industry Policy Statement. 

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