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University of Sydney engineers to enhance Defence capability

12 April 2018
Academics to help develop next-gen Small Unmanned Aerial System
Aerospace engineers from the University of Sydney are among a cohort of industry and research organisations who will develop a next-generation Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) for use by Australian soldiers.
AMME's Dr Dries Verstraete met with members of the Australian Army last week to discuss the project.

AMME's Dr Dries Verstraete met with members of the Australian Army last week to discuss the project.

The Australian Army recently announced it had partnered with the Defence Innovation Hub to award three innovation contracts totalling $783,000 to Australian industry and research organisations to develop the SUAS.

The team from the University of Sydney’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering (AMME) was awarded $249,524 to develop a lightweight unmanned aerial system that combines vertical take-off capabilities with horizontal fixed wing flight for extended speed and endurance. The system will be supported by a suite of cutting edge communication, control and sensor payloads.

Other contracts were awarded to JAR Aerospace from NSW and SYPAQ Systems from Victoria.

In a statement, Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, congratulated these organisations and thanked them for stepping up to answer the capability challenge presented by the Army.

Minister Pyne said Defence units have an enduring need to be able to detect, observe and classify potential threats as they move through hazardous environments.

“Small Unmanned Aerial System capability enables airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities,” Minister Pyne said.

“Ensuring our Defence Force personnel have the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technology supports them in their mission to defend Australia and its interests.” 

“It is encouraging to see the Defence Innovation Hub, the Australian Army and local industry partners working together to develop innovative solutions to enhance Defence capability.”

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence echoed these sentiments and said this contract provided a great collaborative opportunity to utilise our world-class aerospace research.

“This is a great example of the critically important role university research can play in solving contemporary challenges,” he said.

(L to R) AMME's Dr David Johnson, Matthew Anderson with AMSL Aero's Andrew Moore at the Australian Army event.

(L to R) AMME's Dr David Johnson and Matthew Anderson with AMSL Aero's Andrew Moore at the Australian Army event.  

Work on this project will be led by pioneering Unmanned Aircraft Systems researcher Associate Professor KC Wong, along with Dr Dries Verstraete, Dr Gareth Vio, Dr Graham Brooker, Associate Professor Peter Gibbens, and Richard Cislowski from Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships at the University of Sydney. Industry partners AMSL Aero, Mission Systems, FluroSat, and Adroita will also contribute to the project.

“This builds on our long-standing aerospace research expertise in developing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) with unique flight and mission performance, and will allow us to integrate multidisciplinary elements from across our School of AMME and our partners, towards developing a sovereign next-generation SUAS with distinctive capabilities,” Associate Professor Wong said.

The contracts were selected as part of the new Special Notice platform trialled by the Defence Innovation Hub, which allows capability managers to call for industry and research organisations to submit proposals in response to specific capability challenges.

In a statement, UAS Program Manager with the Australian Army, Lt Col Keirin Joyce, highlighted the vigour of the selection process.

“Industry provided us 47 submissions that we shortlisted down to 15 collaborating proposals and we have selected three to work with us on the Small UAS of the Future: SYPAQ Systems; University of Sydney and JAR Aerospace Pty Ltd. Congrats to all three innovators – we can't wait to see what their Concept Exploration phases yield,” he said.

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