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Chapter 1

OVERVIEW

A review by our Chief Executives of our performance during 2005–06, the corporate governance and accountability structures defining the way that we do business, details of our financial performance, and achievements from key support areas.

Science and Technology

Feature—Building ADF Capability for the Future Battlespace

Building ADF capability for the future battlespace

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle 'Wayamba' being lowered into Port Phillip Bay for trials.

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is working to ensure the ADF is at the forefront of future warfighting operations by providing the capability for Defence personnel to operate at a safe distance from the battlefield through the use of highly integrated autonomous robots and unmanned vehicles.

This concept, known as 'Automation of the Battlespace', is a long-range research initiative, involving detailed experimentation and simulations. It will enhance the ADF's capabilities by dramatically increasing the autonomy, performance and affordability of unmanned vehicle systems.

Advances in computing power, electronics, sensors, miniaturisation and smarter software have made it possible to raise automation to a new level.

In the future unmanned battlespace, autonomous vehicles will be deployed in fleets to gather information, conduct surveillance, sweep for mines, defuse bombs and carry out a range of dangerous tasks.

By carrying out such hazardous tasks, these intelligent and autonomous systems will increase the operational effectiveness of Australian troops, while minimising the risk to personnel and reducing the cost of operations.

The research program covers five main areas: platforms; sensors and signal processing; data and information fusion; data links; and human interaction and artificial intelligence. The program also includes a series of multi-national experiments.

The experimentation includes:

  • unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) capable of electronic warfare, radar jamming, data and voice radio relay, intelligence and surveillance;
  • unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) capable of autonomous navigation through difficult terrain with the ability to carry supplies for soldiers and conduct reconnaissance missions;
  • unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) capable of autonomous navigation, underwater surveillance, mine and other obstacle detection, hydrographic survey and communications with the surface without surfacing; and
  • other delta wing and helicopter systems.
Multi-role Undervehicle Tactical Scout

Multi-role Undervehicle Tactical Scout undergoing trials in South Australia

As part of the research program, unmanned aerial vehicles are being equipped with technology that allows them to team or swarm by communicating with one another during flight. They are also being given automated command and control systems, giving them the ability to make high-level decisions based on information received from their own sensors as well as other platforms.

Guidance and control technologies inspired by Defence scientists' research into insect vision techniques have been developed to augment the autopilot and avionic functions of small UAVs. These features have been successfully demonstrated in a number of trials and exercises conducted in Australia and with coalition forces overseas.

During trials in 2005 at Woomera, Defence scientists networked five UAVs during flight, in what is believed to be a world first. Four were fitted with electronic sensors to detect and locate a radar threat and the fifth with a jamming device. The trial showed that these autonomous vehicles can cooperate to complete assigned tasks. This paves the way for the future development of miniature, inexpensive UAVs that could be flown in squadrons to undertake surveillance or even attack an enemy.

During the mine warfare Exercise Dugong in Port Phillip Bay in November 2005, Defence scientists also networked the Wayamba unmanned underwater vehicle, two UAVs and the Navy vessel MSA Bandicoot. The trial successfully demonstrated command, control and communications amongst multiple manned and unmanned underwater and aerial platforms.

UAVs can be used to locate threats and simultaneously feed information and imagery to soldiers in the field using handheld personal computers. This was demonstrated when the Organisation's UAV technology was successfully integrated with coalition forces during a major annual United States Army experiment. Defence scientists integrated the UAV-based electronic warfare, situational awareness and targeting systems into United States Army systems to support soldiers in the field.

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation has established a centre of expertise in autonomous and uninhabited vehicle systems at the University of Sydney to conduct research for Defence specific applications, and to keep the ADF at the forefront of warfighting technology.

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