Defence launches robot soldier competition

Robotics experts urged to design robots for treacherous conditions

The Federal Government has launched a US$1.6 million competition to build a new fleet of military robots.

The Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC), is being run by Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in partnership with the US Department of Defence.

Minister for defence personnel, Greg Combet, says the robots will ultimately make operations safer for soldiers, because the robot will be programmed with the ability to carry out the more dangerous tasks.

“This competition aims to attract the most innovative solutions from around the world to address a technology gap currently faced by coalition forces operating in urban combat zones,” Combet said.

“While remote-controlled robots are being deployed in operational areas, we need smart, intelligent and fully autonomous systems that can take over from humans in conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.”

The competition is to be judged by a panel of experts and developers must present a proposal demonstrating teams of robotic vehicles that can autonomously coordinate their activities and execute a mission in a challenging environment.

The robots should be able to detect, monitor and neutralise potential threats.

“The first five short-listed competitors will each receive research grants of $US100,000 to develop their proposals into prototypes,” Mr Combet said.

“After they have successfully demonstrated their prototypes at a location in South Australia next year, the top three finalists will receive research awards of $US750,000, $US250,000 and $US100,000 respectively.”

The finalists will also gain the opportunity to qualify for further funding under the US Joint Concept Technology Demonstrator (JCTD) Program, so that their prototypes can be transitioned into operational capability.

If an Australian competitor is among the top three finalists, that organisation would also be considered for funding under the DSTO Capability and Technology Demonstrator.

The five shortlisted competitors will be invited to present their projects at the Land Warfare Conference in November 2010.

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