Two fully autonomous M113 armoured vehicles from the Australian Army were the centrepiece of a landmark demonstration that provided crucial insights into the capabilities of integrated autonomous technologies on future battlefields.
The ‘battlefield simulation’ demonstration was held at the Majura Training Site where the Chief of Army observed the two M113 vehicles in operation.
In a six-month project, engineers and technicians installed hardware and software in the vehicles enabling them to operate autonomously. The innovative autonomous technologies being explored could remove soldiers from future battlefields and enable a range of other applications including intelligence gathering and logistics support.
The onboard systems have been designed to comply with the rules of engagement, which always require humans in the decision-making loop.
BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan welcomed the milestone, saying, "This project highlights our commitment to leading the development of new technologies and collaborating across industry and academia to advance autonomous capabilities.
"Autonomous technologies will support soldier responsiveness in an accelerating warfare environment – increasing their ability to outpace, out-manoeuvre and out-think conventional and unconventional threats."
The BAE Systems autonomous technologies used for this project have already supported Australian and UK autonomy programs such as Taranis, Mantis, Kingfisher UAS demonstrators as well as the multi-all terrain vehicle (MATV) and Digger unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) demonstrators.
With the technologies now integrated into the M113 prototype, the vehicles will now be used by Army to experiment with to better understand the opportunities to employ autonomy on the battlefield as part of its recently released Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy.
The vehicles will also be used as test vehicles for technology developed by the Commonwealth’s recently announced Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre (TAS-DCRC).
The TAS-DCRC was announced by the Australian government in 2017 under the Next Generation Technologies Fund to deliver game-changing autonomous systems that ensure trusted, reliable and effective co-operation between people and machines during military operations.
BAE Systems is a founding member of the CRC and the industry lead for land autonomy, working closely with Army and with Defence Science and Technology Group to ensure soldiers have what they need to be future ready.
Costigan added, "BAE Systems Australia’s autonomous systems capability leverages more than three decades of collaboration between BAE Systems Australia and the Commonwealth government through programs such as Nulka and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile."