Government presses ahead with autonomous vehicles

The federal government is pressing ahead with development of autonomous vehicle capability, which could have implications for defence, backing innovation efforts by Rheinmetall Defence Australia.

Autonomous capabilities were announced yesterday as a new sovereign priority defence capability at the same time Rheinmetall was awarded a grant to support R&D into autonomous technology utilising 5G and drone based communication relay systems.

RDA managing director Gary Stewart said: “The Rheinmetall Advanced Firefighting Concept (AFC) program is an innovative Australian research enterprise to develop autonomous vehicles capable of fighting bushfires in extreme environments.

“The AFC is based on the German MARADER platform and aims to reduce the risk to frontline firefighters…and was developed in the aftermath of the 2019/2020 bushfires.”

Rheinmetall released images (main picture) of a modified ex-defence vehicle capable of traversing dangerous terrain to support rescue operations, clear paths and for firefighting.

The vehicle has a range of more than 100 kilometres.

An uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) developed with Telstra to create a communications relay to establish a 5G network to the remote vehicle.

“The UAV will be deployed from the Rheinmetall concept firefighting vehicle to support test and evaluation activities”

Rheinmetall has invested more than $20 million into advanced autonomous system R&D with partners CSIRO, DSTG, RMIT and QUT.

Telstra will join in tests of the vehicle at Rheinmetall’s MILVEHCOE Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence in South-East Queensland.

Picture: Rheinmetall Defence Australia

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