Australian Defence Force unveils next-gen drone prototypes in government-backed accelerator challenge

201
Image credit: army.gov.au

The Australian Government is championing innovation in the defence sector with the initiation of the Sovereign UAS Challenge, featuring the development of new-generation drone prototypes by 11 Australian companies.

The initiative, overseen by the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA), seeks to harness the potential of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to elevate the Australian Defence Force’s operational prowess, ADF said in a media release.

Under this initiative, contracts totalling $1,210,000 have been awarded to companies such as AMSL Aero, Autonomous Technology, Bask Aerospace, Boresight, Crystalaid Manufacture, DefendTex Military Products, Edinburgh Drone Company, Geodrones Australia, Ichor Autonomy, SYPAQ Systems, and V-TOL Aerospace.

Each company is tasked with delivering a UAS prototype for demonstration in April, accompanied by a comprehensive production plan outlining the rapid scalability for potential use by Defence and the Commonwealth.

The Sovereign UAS Challenge aims to leverage the versatility and cost-effectiveness of Small UASs, offering near-real-time situational awareness at lower altitudes compared to larger surveillance alternatives.

These drones serve various purposes, including training, photography, and survey tasks, and play a pivotal role in supporting Defence and other Commonwealth agencies.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy emphasised the significance of ASCA’s inaugural Innovation Incubation Challenge in fostering indigenous drone technology.

He stated, “ASCA’s first Innovation Incubation Challenge will support some of our brightest minds in developing sovereign drone technology that can advance the future capabilities of the ADF.”

The minister also highlighted the broader impact of these investments, foreseeing a boost in the sovereign drone industry, the creation of highly skilled jobs, and an ultimate increase in the operational effectiveness of the military.

He remarked, “Investments in developing small and smart uncrewed aerial systems will not only further a sovereign drone industry, creating highly skilled jobs, but ultimately will increase the operational effectiveness of our military.”