Australia supports latest autonomous robotics demonstration under AUKUS banner

AUKUS security partners – Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States –have successfully validated integration of advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) in unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) that were used in a contested environment, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) announced on 6 February.

The DoD said the Trusted Operation of Robotic Vehicles in a Contested Environment (TORVICE) trial “combined Australian, UK and US innovation and technology to test leading-edge AI in uncrewed robotic vehicles”, assessing the ability of these autonomous vehicles to complete their missions and preserve network connectivity in a challenged environment. The event was conducted in South Australia in late 2023.

“The TORVICE trial takes us a step closer to adopting these technologies in the land domain,” said the DoD, noting that UK and US UGVs were used as surrogates for   autonomous multi-domain launchers and conducted simulated long-range precision fires and other associated missions. At the same event, Australian scientists subjected the UGVs to electronic warfare, electro-optical laser, and position, navigation and timing (PNT) systems attack to test their resilience.

“Understanding how robotic vehicles react in contested environments accelerates our collective know-how and helps improve the system to overcome such attacks,” said Dr Shane Canney, Chief Land and Integrated Force, Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).

“Transitioning trusted robotic capabilities into the hands of our warfighters safely and ethically is a priority,” added Dr Canney.

This co-operation comes under the ambit of AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Pillar 2, which seeks to accelerate the collective understanding of AI and autonomy, while attempting to better comprehend how to rapidly field these technologies in complex operations.

The inaugural AUKUS AI and autonomy trial was conducted in April 2023 at Upavon in Wiltshire, UK, which involved collaborative swarming of AI-driven unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and UGVs to detect and track military targets in real time in a representative environment.

The trial incorporated platforms such as the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) and Warrior armoured vehicle, the Viking UGV, a BMP OT-90 armoured personnel carrier as well as Blue Bear Ghost and Insitu CT220 UASs.

by Jr Ng