Australia's Drones And Satellites Are Getting An Upgrade

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The Federal Government just announced a new project which it says will enhance Australia's defence capability.

With research and development led by a team at The Australian National University, the sensor and on-board data processing for drones and small satellites will get a significant upgrade.

The Defence Materials Technology Centre will host the project, which will be led by Associate Professor Rob Sharp at the ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at Mount Stromlo.

This is one of four projects announced by the federal government which is expected to start by the end of the year.

But what's it all about? Associate Professor Sharp explains.

"The mission uses simultaneous observations of light to build a 3D model of the sea. The model is the key to peeling back the layers of the ocean and seeing beneath the surface," Associate Professor Sharp said.

To start with, the team will focus on the land-to-sea boundary - using these models to work out things like underwater visibility, the structure of the sea floor and the local flora (like sea grass, coral coverage and its health).

"While the initial focus is on water quality and the land-to-sea boundary including coral reef monitoring, the platform concept will support future missions exploring a range of research, civil and defence applications," Associate Professor Sharp said.

"We are particularly excited about opportunities with new, low-noise, near-infrared sensor technology as it can play a key role in new surveys for buried minerals in Australia."

AITC Director Professor Anna Moore said the program would further increase collaboration across Australia.

"CSIRO will develop sophisticated data processing techniques and researchers at ANU will combine these with the instrument payload design and calibration capability and space systems engineering expertise at UNSW-Canberra," Professor Moore said.

"This project will produce a single sensor design that can be tuned to addressing remote sensing problems as diverse as detecting submerged objects, to assessing coral reef health in one single package."

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