Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 6 2010 Contents 18 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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SPOTLIGHT ON REFORM
An international challenge to find the next generation of fully autonomous
robots, capable of carrying out battlefield missions, may assist in keeping
soldiers out of harm’s way in the future.
What do a combined exercise
in the Top End, the delivery of
garrison support in Brisbane
and procurement of a box of
rounds have in common? They
all contribute to delivering
Preparedness describes Defence’s ability to
undertake military operations when directed
by Government. There are two key elements to
preparedness – how quickly we can respond
to a situation with the necessary capabilities
(readiness) and our ability to sustain that operation
for a specified duration (sustainability).
Preparedness is core business for Defence and
accounts for more than 60 per cent of Defence’s
budget. These costs are generated by activities
such as the number of rounds fired in training,
aircraft flying hours and sailing days needed to
achieve and maintain levels of preparedness
directed by CDF.
The PPOC Reform Stream is a set of initiatives
being led by the recently-established Joint
Capability Coordination Division of VCDF Group.
Its focus is on better supporting CDF, the Service
chiefs and all commanders in determining the
optimum balance of Defence preparedness for the
given strategic circumstances and our budget.
The reform initiatives include delivering increased
understanding of why operating units conduct
their various training activities and better visibility
of the costs and risks of preparedness related
activity levels. These are fundamental needs in
delivering the cost-conscious cultural change that
the Strategic Reform Program (SRP) will bring to
This SRP Stream will drive more efficient and
effectives outcomes for the organisation, but does
not have a direct cost reductions target.
All groups and services are involved in the work
being undertaken by the PPOC reform project
teams and the full benefits are expected to take
several years to evolve. An interim Improved
Preparedness Management System will be in use
by 2012. Some key initiatives include:
› development, in conjunction with DSTO,
of a preparedness modelling and analysis
tool, which will allow Defence leaders to
understand the costs associated with different
› improved Defence-wide preparedness guidance
and processes using common language,
methodology and tools, which will reduce
confusion and rework
By AB Melanie Schinkel
Four Australian and eight overseas technology
teams are gearing-up for the elimination round
of the Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotics
International Challenge (MAGIC) to be held in
South Australia in November this year.
A total of 12 teams were selected from 23 entries
received to compete in the challenge.
Defence Materiel and Science Minister Greg
Combet said a panel of Australian and US Defence
scientists would evaluate the robot prototypes
developed by 12 shortlisted teams from Australia,
USA, Canada, Turkey and Japan.
“MAGIC aims to develop fully autonomous robots
capable of conducting dangerous missions and
keeping soldiers out of harm’s way,” Mr Combet
“The MAGIC technical-assessment panel will
visit each of the 12 teams over the next few
weeks for an intensive evaluation of their concept
demonstrators, which will result in a list of five
“Final teams were announced in late July, giving
the selected teams four months to refine and
continue development of their concepts.”
He said each of the finalists would receive
research grants of US$50,000 to complete their
projects for the grand challenge in November.
Australia’s Acting Chief Defence Scientist Dr
Warren Harch said the teams are at the forefront
of robotics technology.
“They have survived a rigorous assessment and
elimination process against six other semi-finalist
teams,” Dr Harch said.
USA Tank Automotive Research, Development, and
Engineering Center Director Dr Grace Bochenek
said the competition fosters international
“We hope to inspire the next generation of
researchers,” she said. “We are always seeking
good ideas and fresh perspectives. This challenge
is a win-win – we are investing in solutions
that will make our soldiers stronger through
Australian and USA officials visited all 12 short-
listed teams during a hectic period of several
weeks to evaluate their robots. The teams
performed a range of activities to demonstrate
certain capabilities including the ability to operate
autonomously and to map their surroundings
“The six successful teams displayed high levels
of innovation and dexterity in completing their
assigned tasks,” Dr Harch said.
“They now have a few more months to fine-tune
their concepts for the grand final challenge when
they will be required to field at least three robots
and accomplish a complex task involving mapping
and identification of threats while demonstrating a
high level of autonomy between the robots.
“We want to move from the current paradigm of
one man-one robot to one man and many robots.”
MAGIC was jointly organised by Australia’s
Defence Science and Technology Organisation and
the US Department of Defense.
The four Australian teams include the University
of New South Wales, MAGICIAN which is a
collaboration between the University of Western
Australia, Flinders University, Edith Cowan
University, Thales Australia and ILLIARC Pty
Ltd, Sydney company Strategic Engineering in
association with the University of Adelaide, and
Melbourne-based company Numinance that is
working with La Trobe University.
International teams in the challenge include
The DSTO technical assessment panel visit the University
of WA to view an entry in the Multi-Autonomous Ground-
robotics International Challenge.
for international robot challenge
Northern Hunters from Canada, Chiba University
from Japan, Cappadocia from Turkey, and US-
based teams Reconnaissance and Autonomy for
Small Robots Team, Cornell University, University
of Michigan, Team VACAS and the University of
› enhanced information from existing ICT systems
using off-the-shelf products, and
› improving resource related decision making
business skills for both ADF and civilian
Amongst the current PPOC initiatives are detailed
force element review pilot studies. The reviews
were undertaken during the past few months with
Navy ANZAC frigates, the Army Ready Battalion
Group, and F/A-18 Hornets in Air Force.
The pilot studies are an opportunity to test and
refine the methodology for future, more wide-
ranging investigations, as well as understand
current relationships between preparedness,
activities and cost for each of these force
elements. The reviews provide a platform
to highlight potential improvements to the
management of preparedness which can position
Defence to better meet future requirements.
Another of the reform initiatives includes the
design and prototyping of a suite of software
demonstrators linking preparedness to personnel
and operating costs. These tools will allow senior
leaders to test-drive different preparedness
options for ADF force elements and understand the
likely cost and risk implications of each option.
An initial prototype application was developed
and demonstrated to the Service chiefs and other
Group heads in late March this year. Further
versions of the application will be developed
during the next year, including refinements to
documented user needs, functionality, system
boundaries and design specifications.
During the next few years these reforms to the
way we plan for and manage preparedness levels
will increasingly influence what many of us do
in the course of a working day, from training and
exercises to procurement decisions.
PPOC reform - helping you make every minute,
dollar and round (or box of rounds) count.
“The reform initiatives include delivering increased understanding
of why operating units conduct their various training activities
and better visibility of the costs and risks of preparedness related
Preparedness and Personnel and
Operating Costs (PPOC) reform stream
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