The Australian government announced Saturday (8 August) that it is increasing Army’s experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and emerging technologies with a A$12.2 million boost in Australian industry contracts. The contracts will be delivered over the next three years and include:
- A$7.7 million contract with BAE Systems Australia to convert 16 M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers into Optionally Crewed Combat Vehicles (OCCVs), increasing the OCCV fleet available to 20 vehicles and support experimentation over two years. Conversions will be conducted in South Australia by BAE and in regional Victoria by Defence’s Joint Logistic Unit (Victoria);
- A$3.5 million contract with the Institute for Intelligent Research and Innovation (IISRI) at Deakin University for the expansion of Army’s leader-follower vehicle technology prototyping;
- A$135,000 contract with QinetiQ Australia for the modelling of the value of conversion of a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle to hybrid-electric drive;
- A$897,000 contract with EPE for small wheeled robots to experiment with human and machine teaming in reconnaissance roles.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the development of robotic and autonomous systems are central to meeting Australia’s future operational challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combat operations. “These technologies are ‘disruptive technologies’ that provide marked advantages on the modern battlefield by bolstering ADF capability while protecting Australian personnel,” Reynolds said. “In the 2020 Force Structure Plan, I set out how Defence plans to seize these opportunities through greater development and implementation of robotic and autonomous systems.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the investment will boost robotic and autonomous vehicle studies and help to build opportunities for local defence companies. “These are exciting times for developing world-class, cutting-edge technology right here in Australia,” Price said. “We are investing A$12 million to boost Defence’s experience and understanding of new and emerging technologies in partnership with Australian industry and academia. There is a global increase in the use of these types of technologies and investments like these ensure both Defence and Australian industry are well positioned to take advantage and further develop these state-of-the-art technologies.”
The Army’s Robotic & Autonomous Systems Implementation & Coordination Office (RICO) was launched in March 2020 to explore, coordinate and develop concepts for disruptive technology in pursuit of its Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy.