Working with the Defence Science Institute to strengthen DSTO-university collaboration on autonomous systems

Autonomy and autonomous systems S&T are high priority areas for DSTO, with Defence an increasing user of unmanned vehicles that would benefit greatly from additional autonomous capabilities and autonomous software. DSTO is building this research capability internally, but also strengthening collaboration with universities and industry to ensure that Defence can capitalise on the best research available in Australia today and build scientific capacity. The Defence Science Institute (DSI) has provided funding and facilitated a series of DSTO-university engagements (including workshops and research collaboration) to help DSTO achieve these goals.

With support from the DSI, researchers within DSTO have been able to explore new technology for enhancing the performance of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Dr Jennifer Palmer, leader of DSTO’s unmanned aerial systems research program in Aerospace Division, says “DSI funding support enabled us to collaborate with Dr Reece Clothier from RMIT to develop new algorithms and tools for allowing UAVs to more effectively operate in urban environments.

“This is now paving the way for UAVs that can avoid the deleterious effects of large-scale turbulence and even exploit wind currents in urban environments to gain endurance and altitude, both of which can enhance mission effectiveness.”

The Institute has also funded and facilitated a workshop series that has allowed DSTO to broaden its awareness of emerging technology in the autonomous systems domain. The series has covered topics ranging from human sciences implications for the supervisory control of autonomous agents to new technologies for allowing autonomous systems to navigate in hostile or highly complex environments where GPS and communications are unavailable.

Dr Jason Scholz, DSTO’s lead for Trusted Autonomy, says “DSI has facilitated engagement with the best researchers in the fields of robotic navigation and vision. We now have a community of scientists and engineers who understand some of Defence’s problems and a set of collaborative initiatives that will make our program in DSTO truly collaborative.”