​Defence backs Saber Astronautics with AU$1.2m contract for space security

Australia's Department of Defence has awarded Saber Astronautics a contract to detect 'degraded electronic signals' as part of its recent round of Defence Innovation Hub contracts.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has handed out its latest round of Defence Innovation Hub contracts, investing a total of AU$3.07 million in four local companies that will be developing "innovative" solutions for Defence.

Sydney-based Saber Astronautics will walk away with a AU$1.2 million cash injection to continue the development of machine learning technology for autonomous identification and modelling of electronic threats.

According to Defence, the proposed innovation could provide an ability to quantify signal threat characteristics that could be used to help protect its systems.

The space engineering company said the work to detect degraded electronic signals is the second of a potential three-phase project using Saber Astronautics' advanced machine learning capability.

"The application adds significant capabilities to Australian Defence and also has potential spinoffs for commercial space operations by autonomously protecting the quality of satellite data during solar storms," the company explained.

"This phase allows us to work closer to the Air Force in fielding some serious Defence capabilities," added lead Avionics Engineer at Saber Astronautics Andreas Antoniades. "The combination of our machine learning with new, advanced signals processing systems benefits both our country and customers alike."

With the government announcing during the 2018-19 Budget that it would be committing AU$41 million to the creation of the Australian Space Agency, Saber Astronautics said its technology can also be a differentiator for space companies making space-derived products.

"Many new space ventures make space products for consumers, such as satellite photos for mines and farms, or data for Internet of Things," explained Saber Astronautics CEO Dr Jason Held. "Space weather events, such as solar flares, can reduce the quality of these products costing the company money. The ability to detect damage to a signal can give great benefits which the consumer will see with clearer pictures and better data."

Also in receipt of the recent funding round is Clinical Universe, which will receive AU$949,000 to explore a healthcare software capability to capture digital output from multiple "point of care" devices and transfer it in standardised formats to relevant e-health systems.

The proposed innovation could enable situational awareness of medical incidents, trends, and patterns across geography and time, Defence said.

Canberra-based Synthesis Technologies will be using its AU$519,000 to explore a high resolution mapping technology that could provide 3D situational awareness and mapping to Defence. The proposed innovation could provide real-time visualisation streamed to Defence desktops, mobile devices, and virtual and augmented reality platforms.

With AU$371,000 in funding, Victoria's SYPAQ Systems will lastly be exploring the feasibility of a handheld imaging device capable of blending different types of imagery together in real time. The proposed innovation could be mounted on unmanned aerial systems and assist the Australian Defence Force with the detection of improvised explosive devices.

The Defence Innovation Hub was launched in December 2016 to facilitate and nurture the development of innovative technology and ideas in support of Australia's Defence capability.

"The hub is committed to working with Australian industry to foster innovation at various levels of technological maturity, transitioning from concept exploration through to a mature, useable capability for the Australian Defence Force," Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said in a statement this week.

"The government is committed to advancing defence capability through a AU$1.6 billion investment in defence industry and innovation over the decade to 2025-26, including around AU$640 million to support the development of innovative technologies through the Defence Innovation Hub."

Alongside the hub, the federal government also announced a AU$730 million investment in Australia's Defence capability and innovation, launching the "Next Generation" Technologies Fund last March in a bid to thwart emerging attack methods via "creative solutions" that benefit Defence as well as the nation's industry.

Under the fund, the federal government previously handed over AU$5.7 million to universities in Australia, aimed at developing technologies to be used by the ADF.

The funding will be invested into nine "transformational" technology areas, highlighted in the 2016 Defence White Paper, including AU$2 million for the development of autonomous systems; AU$960,000 towards multidisciplinary material sciences; AU$780,000 for the advancement of sensors and directed energy capabilities; AU$710,000 to enhance cybersecurity defence; and AU$490,000 for the development of quantum technologies.


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