ABC News: Navy explores use of autonomous vehicles for dangerous, dirty and dull work

November 12, 2018

Kevin Chan

“We already use robots to go into areas where there have been chemicals or explosives,” Commander Hornsby said.

“We are also looking to use them for routine patrols on land and sea so we can use our people more productively.”

Technology to change roles

While many people may associate autonomous technology with air drones or driverless cars, one of the biggest emerging areas in development is ocean equipment.

One South Coast-based company has developed aquatic robots, which can be used for collecting data and surveillance — roles often deemed too dangerous for people to carry out.

Ulladulla-based Ocius was awarded a $3 million contact for its latest robot through the Department of Defence for this purpose.

An autonomous boat heads towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge

PHOTO: The event allows the Australian Defence Force to scope out the kind of technology that is available. (Supplied: Ocius)

Ocius CEO Robert Dane said the robot, dubbed ‘Bruce’, could significantly alter the role of Navy personnel.

“If the robot or the system and platform can be out there all the time, it uniquely changes what people in the military do,” Mr Dane said.

“People say you’ll take away the jobs of sailors, but we’re not.

“We’re giving them a different job, a better job, a safer job,” he said.

Bruce was mostly developed and tested on the south coast of NSW, near Ulladulla.

The materials and design were developed in Australia, with University of NSW students also working on the project.

Commander Hornsby said it was important the autonomous vehicles were tested in Australia because the ocean conditions were some of the roughest in the world.

“If you can make it work here, you can make it work anywhere,” he said.

Other robots being tested at the challenge this week include unmanned tanks, aircraft and underwater vehicles.

The Defence Force will then develop more strategies around how to best use robotics in the future and identify technologies of interest.

Read the full article by ABC News here