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Defence selects 11 Australian drone manufacturers for ADF demonstration

Defence has selected 11 Australian companies to manufacture drone, or Uncrewed Aerial System (UAV), prototypes in contracts worth a total of $1.21 million.

The eleven companies will each provide a prototype of a UAS for demonstration in April along with a production plan detailing how they would rapidly deliver their drones at scale for potential use by Defence and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth hasn’t published the performance and capability goals they have set the companies but the announcement focusses on the ability of their designs to undertake Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tasks and contribute to force Situational Awareness (SA).

The Australian companies selected are: AMSL Aero, Autonomous Technology, Bask Aerospace, Boresight, Crystalaid Manufacture, DefendTex Military Products, Edinburgh Drone Company, Geodrones Australia, Ichor Autonomy, SYPAQ Systems and V-TOL Aerospace. The contracts they have been awarded are part of Defence’s Sovereign UAS Challenge, run by the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA).

“ASCA’s first Innovation Incubation Challenge will support some of our brightest minds in developing sovereign drone technology that can advance the future capabilities of the ADF,” said Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy. “Investments in developing small and smart UASs will not only further a sovereign drone industry, creating highly skilled jobs, but ultimately will increase the operational effectiveness of our military.”

This initiative is an example of how the Australian Government is “getting on with the job of providing the ADF with state-of-the-art technology while supporting the local defence industry, including small and medium sized enterprises,” he added.

Small UASs are versatile and cost-effective platforms that provide near-real-time SA at lower altitudes than larger surveillance alternatives, in an expendable and general‑purpose frame. Defence and other Commonwealth agencies already use them for training, photography and survey tasks.

In May 2023, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Mr Conroy announced the establishment of ASCA, delivering on the Government’s election commitment to drive innovation that creates new capability for the Australian Defence Force.

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