Robert Dane – who heads Australian unmanned surface vessel specialist OCIUS – has flagged the crucial role AI will play in terms of how maritime drones are likely to operate as the overall digital transformation gathers traction.
“The research we're doing with the university has got words like 'artificial intelligence', 'disseminated intelligence', 'machine learning', words that I don't really fully understand,” said Dane. “But what I understand is the output of that, which is … [to do with] who would train the pack to do a mission or do multiple missions, and then the weather and the opposition would be the wild factors and the wild cards that the group would have to, as a disseminated intelligence, work out how to best respond to that.
“It may well be if one hears something or sees something, it cues something in the air and [alerts] other drones to take photos, take signatures of that, or angle themselves into an array sort of formation so that you get a trigonometry and you get a much better picture of what is actually there.”
In terms of the firm’s manufacture advancement, Dane said the system it has just developed with Thales is technology readiness level (TRL) five to six, and “we're aiming in the next 12 months to improve that level of that system to seven or eight.”
Dane added that the TRL level of the vessel itself was seven.
“There's a thing called Autonomous Warrior 2018 coming up in November of next year and we're very much involved in discussions about how we could participate in that [and] do a number of the missions that they're talking about, [such as] the gateway communications and the anti-submarine warfare aspects to it,” he said.
The OCIUS CEO said early demand from Defence was looking promising.
“There is a lot of interest [from] Defence in Australia and around the world in this technology,” said Dane. “One of our competitors in America, Liquid Robotics, which is a platform that carries much less payload … has proven the market for gateway communications and oceanography.”
Dane highlighted that this company had just been acquired by Boeing for over US$200 million.
“So, there's definitely a market out there because of all those reasons I just mentioned,” he added.
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