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a hand-held (Tier 1) UAS to replace the current
Elbit Systems Skylark.
Joint Project JP66 will acquire a new Air
Defence Target System (ADTS) to replace the
incumbent BAE Systems MQM-107E Kalkara.
The project is currently awaiting Second Pass
approval and will most likely utilise several types
of unmanned vehicles as well as manned aircraft,
due to the wide scope of end user requirements.
Arguably the most ambitious Defence project
to involve a UAS is Project Air 7000 Phase 1B
which will seek to acquire a High Altitude Long
Endurance system for maritime and littoral
surveillance sometime in the next decade.
The favoured platform for this requirement is
Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Global Hawk,
though the project was pushed to the right
a couple of years ago and a formal selection
process is not due until somewhere around 2018.
Local opportunities in this programme revolve
around the section of an Industry Capability
Partner (ICP) and the development and
operation of an Integrated Ground Environment
for the air vehicle.
DSTO AND THE CTD
Australia’s DSTO has conducted research and
development in the Unmanned Aerial Systems
field for many years, with a heritage stretching
back to the development of the Jindivik target
drone in the early late 1940s and 1950s.
Today it has an interest in all unmanned
systems and their application to Defence,
including underwater and land unmanned
technologies. Although Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles are further along the development path
and now in widespread use around the globe,
DSTO is involved in several projects above and
below the waves.
In May 2005, for example, the organization
signed a three-year initial agreement with
the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre
for Field Robotics (ACFR) to collaborate
on unmanned systems research. The official
Defence announcement of the agreement
gave examples of the work-scope intended,
saying it included work on “ a programme to
establish an Uninhabited Ground Vehicle
within DSTO.” development of a science
and technology ‘roadmap’ for UGVs to help
the Australian Defence Organization identify
critical systems requirements, major technology
areas, and main drivers for Australian Defence
Force UGVs; specialist training and research
opportunities for DSTO and ACFR, particularly
in estimation and data fusion, autonomous
navigation, sensors for autonomous navigation,
and systems engineering; investigation of the
military application of autonomous underwater
vehicles (UUVs), particularly teams of UUVs
equipped with advanced acoustic sensors and
communications in mine clearing applications.
As a research organization DSTO lacks the
necessary skills and funds to commercially
develop some of the work it undertakes
and Government has therefore developed
the innovative Capability and Technology
Demonstrator programme to assist local industry
in the development of relevant technologies.
The CTD process seeks to improve defence
capability by providing research organizations in
Australia and New Zealand with the opportunity
to demonstrate technologies whilst allowing
Defence to assess its capabilities and/or risks.
DSTO manages the CTD programme on behalf
of Defence’ Capability Development Group and
allocates funds annually to SMEs.
The CTD programme is credited with
bringing several emerging technologies into
the marketplace and it continues to fund new
technologies. One of the most recent examples of
this was announced by the Minister for Defense
Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon in late
August, with the unveiling of a project to improve
underwater sonar sensing for ships, submarines,
and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV ).
Known as the Nanoparticle-Hydrophone
Development system, it has been developed
by Phoenix Engineering Systems Pty. Ltd. with
Thales Australia, and uses small pad-like devices
installed on the hulls of vessels.
Other projects with unmanned applications
on the CTD ‘wish list’ currently include:
Autonomous detection and neutralization of
Under water Improvised Explosive Devices
(IEDs), collision avoidance technology for
small UAVs, launch and recovery systems for
UUVs, navigation/communications systems
for autonomous land, sea and air vehicles and
robotics and unmanned systems research.
With unmanned technology becoming such a
sought after capability, it is not surprising that
the local arms of the global defence corporations
are engaged in research, development and
manufacture. However Australia has a rich
history of technical innovation by SMEs and
local technology has been exported to the world.
Historically this has mostly concerned
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle applications and
although it is not an exhaustive account of
Australia’s UAV industrial footprint, the following
provides a brief overview of local capability in
Aerosonde is a Melbourne-based company
which has, over the years, developed a range of
small UAS systems and is a pioneer of unmanned
research in Australia. Today it is owned by the
AAI Corporation, an operating unit of Textron
Systems, but retains its Australian footprint. The
Aerosonde series of UAVs has been employed by
customers such as NASA, the US Office of Naval
Research, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the US military and our own
At the present time the company is marketing
its Aerosonde 4.7 UAS, which was first showcased
at the 2010 Bahrain Airshow. Able to carry a 4.5
kg EO/IR payload aloft for around 10 hours
and is catapult launched and capable of being
recovered by a net. The Aerosonde 4.7 is also
compatible with AAI’s Expeditionary Ground
Control Station (EGCS).
UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS
Joint Project JP66 will acquire a new Air Defence Target System
(ADTS) to replace the incumbent BAE Systems MQM-107E
Australia’s DSTO has conducted research and development
in the Unmanned Aerial Systems field for many years, with
a heritage stretching back to the development of the Jindivik
target drone in the early late 1940s and 1950s.
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