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Army sets up RICO office for robotic and autonomous systems

A Ghost Robotics unmanned ground vehicle supports Australian Army soldiers conduct an enemy position clearance during an autonomous systems showcase at the Majura Training Area, Canberra.

The Army has established a specialist office to advance knowledge in and bolster its adoption of disruptive technologies in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, robotics and autonomous systems.

The Army has established a specialist office to advance knowledge in and bolster its adoption of disruptive technologies in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, robotics and autonomous systems.

Created in March 2020, the Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation Coordination Office (RICO) operates within the Future Land Warfare branch of the army's Land Capability division and will use specialist personnel to explore, co-ordinate and develop concepts using disruptive technologies.

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Director General of Future Land Warfare Brigadier Ian Langford said in an article for Army News that the RICO was “consistent with the CA’s vision of being future-ready by looking for opportunities to integrate technology as well as becoming a more intelligent customer”.

The aim of the office is to build on the momentum of Army’s successes with disruptive technology last year. This included the demonstration of the ghost robotics ground robot and the concept of optionally crewed combat vehicles.

“The opportunities presented by disruptive technology have to be understood early if we are to exploit our capability edge,” BRIG Langford said.

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RICO will use specialised army personnel to advance knowledge in artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, robotics and autonomy.

Another goal of the office is to advance technologies regarding alternative power and energy, such as hybrid drive and additive manufacturing, along with autonomous leader-follower trucks and increasing experimentation with OCCVs.

Previous work in this area that is being expanded through the creation of the new office includes:

  • Conversion of two  M113 AS4s to include, manual control, tele-operation, autonomous waypoint navigation, and follow the leader capabilities. The two OCCVs were demonstrated in Canberra on 31 October 2019.
  • Conversion of two medium trucks to be optionally crewed with a university partner, to operate in manual, tele-operation, leader follower and GPS waypoint navigation modes.
  • Different user interfaces have been experimented, with operator feedback measured. 
  • Human Machine teaming experimentation across multiple platforms (OCCV, UGV, quadrupeds, medium trucks) to consider how humans and machines can combine to achieve team effects.
  • Platform actuation.
  • Uncrewed ground vehicles (UGVs) were experimented with over multiple activities with combat and logistic soldiers to gain insights into potential future applications.
  • UGVs and quadruped (robotic dogs) have participated in experimentation with soldiers to gain insights into potential application and functionality.
Army sets up RICO office for robotic and autonomous systems
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