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The Australian Defense Force (ADF) will be working towards the delivery of unmanned platforms for military operations, with an AU$50 million injection from the federal government.
The funding, delivered over seven years, will be given to the Trusted Autonomous Systems Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) to ensure “reliable and effective cooperation between people and machines during dynamic military operations”.
While existing autonomous and robotic systems that operate in the manufacturing and mining sector are effective in controlled environments, the federal government said they are not suitable for the “uncertain” situations defense finds itself in.
The autonomous systems will be developed in partnership with academia, publicly funded research agencies, and industry — particularly small-to-medium enterprises — in a bid to create an “interlocking research and innovation capability that is focused on driving a defense outcome”.
According to zdnet.com, the CRC funding is made available under the government’s 10-year AU$730 million “Next Generation” Technologies Fund launched in March in an effort to thwart emerging attack methods via “creative solutions” devised by industry and academia.
Further CRCs focused on projects aligned with the priorities in the Next Generation Technologies Fund are expected to soon follow, the government said.
The federal government also handed over AU$5.7 million to universities in Australia in May, to develop technologies to be used by the armed forces.
Also funded under the AU$730 million technologies fund, the investment will be spread across nine “transformational” technology areas, highlighted in the 2016 defense White Paper, including AU$2 million for the development of autonomous systems; AU$960,000 towards multidisciplinary material sciences; AU$780,000 for the advancement of sensors and directed energy capabilities; AU$710,000 to enhance cybersecurity defense; and AU$490,000 for the development of quantum technologies.
The ADF also received AU$101 million last month to acquire small unmanned aerial systems under tranche one of a two-tranche program aimed at equipping defense with Wasp AE drones for field use.