Page 22 - Australian Defence Magazine - July 2018
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“The rapid increase of technology has driven an agile acquisition system for Army UAS’ and the Wasp replacement program, under Phase 4B of Land 129.”
“I’d much rather have diggers crashing a cheap multi-rotor drone than some of the other platforms we have, either in service or coming down the line,” Forces Command- er Major General Gus McLachlan said at EX Chong Ju last month where the Wasp was on show.
“Through our trials we have a good idea of what our combat units can use UAVs for but we don’t quite understand the potential for everyone else – the Forward Arming and Refuelling Points, the logistics units, explosive ordnance technicians, truck con- voys, ordnance depots and Military Police for example,” LTCOL Joyce explained. “All of those people have ideas about how they could use a drone, so we decided the best way to test it is to roll out a COTS UAS over the next two years, they can take it out into the field, test it and report back on what works and what doesn’t.
“So that when we start the next batch of projects under the Force Structure Review we’ll have a very good idea of what areas field robotics can be applied to. The potential ben- efit of creating a drone-literate Army is very exciting and will place us at the cutting edge of identifying and adapting roles for this tech- nology, we’re really proud of the initiative.”
Army has also formalised a drone racing
The Wasp is hand launched.
team, which it sees as an opportunity to engage with young people (15-30 year olds) who have taken up the hobby, but also as a potential recruiting tool.
“All of these kids are teaching themselves from watching social media videos and learning things like soldering, computer coding, aerodynamics, electric motor tech- nology and when they fly their drone they’re a pilot and a race car driver. Then they come home on Sunday night and cut their own videos and teach themselves to be multi-me- dia technicians as well,” LTCOL Joyce said. “That group of people are potential Army recruits. Not just as drone operators, these kids are the kind of people we want to bring in as Signallers, Mechanics and Multi-Media technicians as well.”
Industry engagement
A further impor- tant initiative is the partnerships that are being formed with Australian industry to develop UAS tech- nology which may lead to the local sup- ply of replacements
for Wasp, Shadow and Black Hornet.
In April, Minister for Defence Indus- try Christopher Pyne announced that the Australian Army had partnered with the Defence Innovation Hub to award seeding funding to the tune of $783,000 to three Australian companies and research organisa-
tions to develop the next generation SUAS. Sydney-based JAR Aerospace has been awarded $275,000 to develop a hybrid fixed wing, vertical take-off and land- ing (VTOL) UAS. SYPAQ Systems of Melbourne has received $258,621 to fur- ther develop its Corvo X SUAS; and the University of Sydney has been granted $249,524 for the development of a light- weight UAS which also combines fixed-
wing and VTOL capabilities.
This funding was obtained, with Gov- ernment approval, from the Land 129 Phase 4 budget.
“It’s linked to sovereign industry capa- bility efforts,” LTCOL Joyce explained to ADM. “They are working on contract exploration of what it would take for an Australian company to produce a small tactical UAS to replace Wasp in seven years’ time.”
LTCOL Joyce adds that Army has rec- ognised that the technology in these small UAS systems has arrived and it wants to capitalise on it, while ensuring Australian industry plays a larger role in the future.
“This technology is game-changing. Re- moving soldiers from danger by putting a robot in their place, while enhancing their situational awareness, makes mission exe- cution better, faster and more effective,” he said. “We want to stay at the leading edge of technology and I think that’s evident in our investment in those small Black Hor- net and Wasp systems. It’s evident in the ef- fort we’re putting into informal modernisa- tion through the COTS program and we’re really doing our best to work with industry to make sure that Australian industry is a big part of that future.”
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