CSIRO launches flying datacentre

Australia's Defence Force's new fleet of Wedgetail early warning aircraft will have more than an eagle eye when fitted with a CSIRO-developed, battlespace analytics program.

A hybrid of an air traffic control, eavesdropping and communications and weapons targeting functions, the Air Force's new toy is effectively a cross between a data centre with wings and a giant, airborne router.

The three-year CSIRO battlespace information fusion project for Boeing has also been commercialized for sale to appropriate customers.

According to a CSIRO spokesman, a team of 20 scientists and engineers developed the new technology which automates the interpretation of combat and surveillance situations, and provides intelligent ways of delivering information to operators that minimize the risk of information overload.

Known as the Cognizant Control Room (CCR), the platform's software deals specifically with automated "situation assessment" of the "entire air picture" - including enemy force structure and its tactical intent.

CCR also contains feature to help operators think. Dubbed "awareness monitoring", the speech and actions of operators are analyzed and compared to the system's interpretation of events, with feedback provided.

The CSIRO spokesman said a significant new feature of Wedgetail's platform is the ability to contextualize information delivery - or the right information at the right time, based on an understanding of the operator's task and context.

Rapid information integration also provides methods for on-the-fly querying and integration of disparate data and information sources.

CSIRO project leader, John Colton said the project brought together a team of specialists with IT capabilities in statistical and grammatical analysis; intelligent information delivery; distributed systems technologies, particularly distributed databases and automated integration.

Saying it was too early to predict when CSIRO's new toys will see active combat, Colton stressed there were also non-military applications for the technologies.

"The rapid information integration and intelligent information delivery are quite general capabilities that could be used in almost any domain.

"The underlying situation assessment technology could have applications elsewhere in military and civilian surveillance and monitoring," he said.

Boeing project manager Dean Webb said he envisaged using much of the resulting technology on multiple Boeing projects, not just on the Wedgetail AEW&C program.

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