DST Group is inviting Expressions of Interest from Australian academic institutions to partner with Defence to advance our 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, purpose-built 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, to gain efficiencies, tasks may be allocated among similar vehicles. Or to achieve complex goals, 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.


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

Call for Partnering Research

DSTG is seeking to build capability in the area of maritime collaborative autonomy through a partnership with one or more Australian academic institutions.

DSTG 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 complementary capabilities are encouraged.

Partnering Opportunities


  • 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.

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 addressing the following:

  • A model of engagement which includes co-investment and strategy for establishing and maintaining an enduring partnering capability; and
  • Program of work addressing one or more of the research priorities outlined above, including proposed schedule of deliverables.

Submissions should be in pdf format and sent via email to  by 18 December 2020.

Submissions will be assessed by a panel from DSTG. Selected submissions will then be invited for discussions and develop their program of work further.



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