Defence robotic submarine applies data to mines

Datamining of a different kind got a more than a dry run this week, with the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) pitting the skills of programmers guiding an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) against a series of dummy sea mines.

Conducted in waters off the Victorian town of Portland, the series of trials tested a range of technology applications of DSTO's UUV Wayamba.

These included undersea navigation, surveillance, communications, networking and sensory capability in an effort to boost the life expectancy of naval clearance divers.

Research leader in DSTO's platforms sciences laboratory, Janis Cocking, said Wayamba played a crucial part in furthering the capability of Australia's future defence applications and operations.

"Given their potential to operate undetected, UUVs may join our submarines in the longer term as part of Australia's 'Silent Service'...[they] are poised to play a major role in support of defence because they enable Defence personnel to be separated from areas of extreme danger," Cocking said.

This includes the potential to support amphibious operations by undertaking rapid environmental assessments, to detect underwater mines and other maritime hazards, she said.

Other development potential also exists to dramatically cut costs through combined military and civilian applications such as hydrographic surveys which are currently beyond the fiscal reach of many research organizations. The machines can stay submerged and silent for months at a time with the ability to deliver payloads to targets as required - without risking the lives of personnel.

The UUV trials come as Australia's Defence chiefs bunker down behind closed doors at Canberra's Defence Force Academy to plan the next phase of the Australian Defence Force's Network Centric Warfare roadmap.

In a sign of just how critical IT has now become to military affairs, key staff from the Defence Department's Office of the Chief Information Officer will work cheek by jowl with heads of military strategy, operations, intelligence and capability from Australia, the US and the UK.

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