ANU to lead new project to enhance technology for drones and small satellites

Publication date
Friday, 29 Sep 2017

The Australian National University (ANU) will lead a new project announced by the federal government to enhance Australia's defence capability by building industrial capability in sensor and on-board data processing for drones and small satellites.

The new project to be delivered through the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) will be led by Associate Professor Rob Sharp at the ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo.

It is one of four projects announced by the federal government which is expected to start by the end of the year.

Associate Professor Sharp said the DMTC High Altitude Sensor Systems (HASS) program was an exciting opportunity for multi-disciplinary groups at ANU, CSIRO, and UNSW-Canberra to achieve exciting developments in modern instrumentation. The collaboration also supports a new start-up.

"The project will address key data challenges using new techniques developed from across distinct, yet highly complementary, research fields," Associate Professor Sharp said.

"The mission uses simultaneous observations of light to build a 3D model of the sea. The model is the key to peeling back the layers of the ocean and seeing beneath the surface.

"Initially we will focus on the land-to-sea boundary, using such models to determine important properties such as underwater visibility, the structure of the sea floor and the local flora such as sea grass, coral coverage and its health.

"While the initial focus is on water quality and the land-to-sea boundary including coral reef monitoring, the platform concept will support future missions exploring a range of research, civil and defence applications.

"We are particularly excited about opportunities with new, low-noise, near-infrared sensor technology as it can play a key role in new surveys for buried minerals in Australia."

AITC Director Professor Anna Moore welcomed the announcement and said the program would increase collaboration across Australia.

"CSIRO will develop sophisticated data processing techniques and researchers at ANU will combine these with the instrument payload design and calibration capability and space systems engineering expertise at UNSW-Canberra," Professor Moore said.

"This project will produce a single sensor design that can be tuned to addressing remote sensing problems as diverse as detecting submerged objects, to assessing coral reef health in one single package."