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DST calls for EoIs for autonomous maritime vehicle research

DST is seeking partners to help advance its knowledge and understanding of collaborative autonomy for maritime vehicles. Photo: Defence

DST Group is inviting Expressions of Interest (EOI) from Australian academic institutions to partner with Defence to advance its knowledge and understanding of collaborative autonomy for maritime vehicles.

In the naval community, a transition is underway to augment the capabilities of, or even completely replace, some manned vessels using Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).

Because RAS are much smaller than their host vessels, they will need to perform tasks as teams of individually specialised vehicles. For example, tasks may need to be allocated among similar vehicles or teams of dissimilar vehicles with varying capabilities may be used. These teams must be responsive to their operators, who will require them to operate remotely from their host vessels and to maintain their effectiveness in situations with degraded or interrupted communications.

Considerable technological development is necessary to implement such concepts of operation, says DSTG.

DSTG already has a research program aimed at understanding and realising the operational benefits of collaboration between autonomous vehicles engaged in time-consuming, expensive and potentially hazardous marine activities, such as military surveillance, border patrol, mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare.

Related developments in terrestrial, air and space robotics have relevance to the maritime domain, but marine-specific advances in single-vehicle and multi-vehicle autonomous behaviours, planning, communications, interfaces, simulation and testing are required.

The aim of this partnering opportunity is to foster such developments and provide mechanisms for further cooperation between partners and DSTG.

The specific objectives of the project are to develop vehicle configurations and software that will allow heterogeneous teams of vehicles to collaborate across air, surface and underwater domains in ways that are robust to the marine environment and particularly to variable levels of communication. This will involve:

  • Development of supervisory and distributed, consensus-based behaviours, e.g., for
  • task allocation and mission monitoring
  • mutual safety of navigation and fault response
  • multi-vehicle control, for example, during data exchange at close quarters
  • Examination of the sensitivity of such behaviours to communications capability
  • Development of individual vehicle autonomy to increase robustness and support evolving sensing and communications capabilities

DSTG is seeking to build capability in the area of maritime collaborative autonomy through a partnership with one or more Australian academic institutions. It is proposing a three-year research partnership. Preferred research partners will have strong capabilities and research interests in one or more of the following priority areas:

  • Maritime vehicle dynamics and control
  • Maritime communications, particularly underwater
  • Distributed, multi-vehicle task planning and allocation
  • Machine learning and AI
  • Simulation of the marine environment and maritime activities
  • Development of robotics middleware, particularly ROS/ROS2
  • Sea trials and maritime vehicle operations

Partnerships between multiple universities with complimentary capabilities are encouraged. There is an expectation that the program will lead to the establishment of a substantial national capability in maritime autonomy that provides sustained benefit to Defence, its international partners and the local research community. It is expected that the successful research partner(s) will mutually benefit from the research opportunities and present a valuable and enduring collaborative relationship.


  • Will commit $1.35M (excl. GST) in cash funding over three years ($450k per annum)
  • Will provide access to laboratories and may facilitate the loan of equipment and resources in support of program outcomes where necessary
  • Will provide guidance and supervisory responsibility where appropriate

It would be desirable for the research partner(s) to have the capacity:

  • To commit to program oversight and setting the foundation for an enduring capability-driven partnership in the area of maritime collaborative autonomy
  • To appoint a postdoctoral fellow (or equivalent) on a full-time basis
  • To provide software engineering support to transition research outcomes to code of sufficient quality, in terms of validation and documentation, for use by Defence
  • To provide access to laboratory and facilities (where appropriate)
  • To support and administrate student projects in areas of mutual interest

Essential Requirements:

  • Demonstrated capability and experience in one or more of the described priority research areas
  • Ability to attract suitably qualified research candidates
  • Ability to participate in sea trials in the Sydney region
  • Ability to rapidly stand-up capability
  • Signatory of the Defence Science Partnering Deed


DSTG is interested in fostering an enduring partnership. As such, the following would be looked upon favourably when assessing EOI submissions:

  • Demonstrated experience translating research models into production software systems
  • Ability to conduct experiments or trials to validate models, preferably from a location that is readily accessible from Sydney
  • Genuine interest to develop and grow a sovereign research capability within their institution in a related field, and promote an ongoing partnership with the Defence autonomous vehicle community
  • Provision of appropriate students and scholarship/s in areas of mutual interest to augment the research program
  • Competitive co-funding proposals for academic support to the programme
  • Clear vision for the development of an ongoing capability

How to Apply

DSTG is inviting Expressions of Interests (EOI) from Australian academic institutions.

Submissions should be no longer than 4 pages outlining a relevant experience, research interest and a proposed research program. All submissions will be handled in confidence.

For further information and Technical Requirements go to the relevant DST Web Site and to:

Undersea Systems, Autonomy, and Communications

Stuart Anstee – Telephone: (02) 9381 0170 / Email:

Surface Systems and Simulation

Helen Dorsett – Telephone: (02) 9381 0141 / Email:

Contracting and administrative support

Stephen Johns – Telephone: 0418 393 475 / Email:

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