Australia’s leading developer of high-power laser systems, AIM Defence, is developing a novel virtual testing environment for UASs – a hybrid-twin augmented test arena. The test arena is being developed in partnership with the Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG) and funded through the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF).
AIM is one of 22 Australian SMEs selected in 2021 to partner with Defence under an Industry Competitive Evaluation Research Agreement (ICERA) funded through the NGTF, which also funded the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC. The ICERA funding will support a 16-month collaborative project between AIM and DSTG to progress AIM’s cutting-edge test arena which will improve the tracking accuracy and beam precision of the company’s drone-destroying lasers.
“Our main aims are to speed up the pace of iteration and lower the burden of test and evaluation so we can virtually test the system in environments we wouldn’t otherwise get easy access to (i.e. critical assets such as airports etc.),” said Ms Jessica Glenn, co-founder of AIM. “We’ve spent a fair bit of time looking at ways to manage force escalation scenarios to really minimise local impact. This includes initial camera blinding lower power lasers etc. as well as enhanced eye-safety laser sources.
“The funding provided under the ICERA program to extend AIM’s in-house technology is a validation of the work the team has been doing to build better testing environments for safer, faster iteration of both software and hardware in the defence sector,” she added.
AIM Defence designs, builds, test and manufactures high-powered laser solutions including the ultra-compact Fractl which is capable of taking down drones with ground-breaking precision using the most advanced AI tracking in the world. Fractl’s laser beam can hit a drone moving at 100 km/hour from a kilometre away with a beam the size of a 10-cent piece.
AIM’s novel hybrid-twin capability allows testing of automatous platforms for a fraction of the cost of large-scale outdoor trials, whilst still enabling similar levels of technology risk reduction. The hybrid-twin test arena has already been used to speed up concept testing and iteration cycles of its high-precision laser tracking system and is currently being retrofitted to enable the same concepts to be applied to autonomous drone platforms.
This new partnership is among several joint research projects that AIM and DSTG have worked on together, reinforcing the benefits of collaboration between Australia’s deep tech start-ups and Defence. The ICERA funding is designed to support innovative proposals from agile SMEs that can develop or validate their technology aligned with the NGTF’s nine priority technology areas.