Monash University Victorian Rural Robotics Facilityv4.0 050801 GKE
Monash University, through its Faculty of Engineering, has secured 300Ha of coastal land and will establish an engineering field research centre at Port Welshpool.
Monash anticipates that the site will initially host 50 research, associated staff and research students growing to 100-150 over 3-5 years. This growth will largely be determined by the number of research partners and other Monash and community activities associated with the site.
The Faculty of Engineering at Monash has a wide range of leading research activities through its various research centres and will be managed by the Faculty's Department of Electrical & Computer Systems Engineering.
The strongly related areas of telecommunications and intelligent robotic systems have been chosen as the lead activities at the site. It is mainly for this reason and their relevance to rural needs that the site will initially carry the title of the Victorian Rural Robotics Facility. In time these activities may represent only one of a number of research clusters.
It is recognised by governments and industry globally that new applications in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and the associated infrastructure, will provide large rewards for those who have sufficient imagination, and act decisively to exploit the opportunities.
The transitions occurring in ICT will see a strong emphasis on ubiquitous computing where sensors, computing and telecommunications are intrinsic elements within a product. The VRRF initiative builds upon and reinforces the combination of sensors, computing, telecommunications and advanced software systems.
The VRRF will conduct research into the development, testing, demonstration and deployment of unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV) which function on land, at sea or in the air. A wide-ranging survey of airborne UAV markets was conducted by the international research group, Frost and Sullivan in 1999, which identified a substantial and growing market for UAVs.
Estimated 1998 global revenues for the combined civil and military markets were US$2.07 billion, with a net annual growth rate of over 12% and 19% compound for the subset of endurance UAV's characterized by the Aerosonde aircraft. These estimates are for the sale of UAVs.
They do not quantify the potential economic gains through better management of Australia's environment and natural resources. Australia, currently, is dependent upon the remote sensing capabilities of other countries.
Australia already has a fledgling capacity in field robotics. The academic and commercial collaboration on the site will help develop this into a major international industry, with large export earning potential. Monash wishes to use its research strengths to assist in retaining this industry, and to capture a significant share of the market for Australia.
Field robots may be fully autonomous, or extend the range of our senses and actions through teleoperation or remote control. The most effective form of teleoperation is termed "teleprescence" where the quality of the remote sensing and control can give an operator the sensation of being at the remote site except for its hazards and discomforts.
Remote fixed monitoring equipment is a closely related area sharing many of the sensor and telecommunication attributes of field robots. There is constant challenge to reduce the size and weight of autonomous systems and their components.
Applications include amongst others:
firefighting and natural disaster evaluation
environmental and crop and livestock monitoring
weather observations in severe conditions
undersea pipeline and cable inspection
coastal surveillance and border patrol
health care and patient monitoring
Port Welshpool is contained within a very small area bounded by the Tullamarine and East Sale restricted flight zones and other aircraft corridors. It is therefore one of the few locations on the coast of Victoria which meets Monash's requirements for land, sea and air space access.
It is also sufficiently close to Melbourne for the provision of other key services that are unlikely to relocate in the planned short startup time of six months.
Monash is seeking Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Royal Australian Air Force approvals for long range, high altitude and onsite low altitude flights.
Although located at Port Welshpool, Monash expects that benefits and multipliers will contribute significantly to other initiatives in Gippsland including those in education.
The complex will include several buildings set some distance apart with shared conference centre and telecommunication facilities. The research activities will be located in three major buildings thematically named Aero, Aqua and Terra, each of approximately 1500SqM.
The site will have two 1Km+ runways suitable for light aircraft. It is intended that these will be used mainly for research activities. An architect has been engaged to prepare preliminary estimates for building costs and associated site works.
It is anticipated that the major part of the site will remain as grazing land.
The building programme has been designed to permit maximum flexibility and expansion depending on the needs of Monash research groups and their partners. Monash is conscious of the environmental fragility of coastal areas and will ensure that site activities are planned in a sympathetic manner. The estimated cost of the building programme is $7M.
The facilities at the site will permit visits by organised tourist groups. Monash will be encouraging schools in particular to visit the site contributing to the learning environment. Many activities will be live on the Internet making the site visible globally and allowing direct interaction with missions.
VRRF Industry Research Partners
The first major research partner for the VRRF will be Aerosonde a world leader in autonomous robotic aircraft. Monash has collaborated with Aerosonde for a number of years and will build upon this relationship through the VRRF.
Monash is in discussion with a number of other potential research partners.
We thank the people of Gippsland for their continuing enthusiastic support of this initiative.
For further information on this initiative contact:
Professor Greg K. Egan, Monash University +61 3 9905 1827
AerosondeAerosonde Ltd. (AeL) is committed to a long-term lease as the first commercial tenant and research partner on the site. AeL is leading the world in the development and use of small, long-endurance robotic aircraft.
The Aerosonde holds the record for being the first unmanned aircraft to cross the North Atlantic (in 1998) and forms the basis of a substantial export industry of data services for environmental, agricultural, military and border patrol organisations.
The Aerosonde is now in service or being trialed for the US National Science Foundation, US Navy, US Airforce, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Canadian, US, European and Australian national weather agencies, NASA, the US Department of Energy and numerous other prestigious international clients. Demonstrations are also underway with the Australian Army and Navy.
SAAB Systems, an international aerospace and defence company, has acquired 20% of AeL opening significant new markets opportunities. Over 75% of AeL's current income is export dollars. It is a very significant export earner, growing rapidly and enjoying a somewhat unique niche in the global unmanned aircraft business.
AeL is currently based in Victoria, but require access to facility such as that proposed if it is to remain here. AeL will establish their final production assembly and flight test facility at the VRRF and will utilise the site for training of new staff and contractors.
They will also launch and recover Aerosondes for operations over SE Australia and the Tasman Sea. AeL currently has 37 staff and contractors and are in the midst of an expansion phase that will increase the size of the company dramatically.
Monash University Centre for Telecommunications and Information EngineeringCTIE is an important national centre for the design and application of telecommunications systems. The Centre, originally founded by Telstra, has been active in the field of leading edge telecommunications research for over a decade.
Centre activities include research and development in the field of telecommunications, its applications and network performance, consulting for industry and government, and professional training courses. A centre biography highlighting relevant past experience is attached.
CTIE currently manages the Applications program of the Australian Telecommunications Cooperative Research Centre since 1999, previously managing the Advanced Network Systems and Performance Applications Group (ANSPAG) of the Research Data Networks Cooperative Research Centre. It is a member of the Distributed Systems Cooperative Research Centre. The research interests CTIE will be pursuing extend upon existing research activities and expertise. They are particularly relevant for and will be applied to remotely controlled and robotic applications and will contribute to aspects of communications for rural and regional areas.
Research will include planning issues for wireless networks, reliable mobility performance, and optimisation and quality of service, investigation of emerging high speed wireless networks, communication including video and data transfer between unmanned aircraft for co-operative tasks, human and network factors of video conferencing, telepresence
Real-time services including video on demand and its impact on other telecommunications traffic, video manipulation for compact storage and efficient transmission, secure video transmission and other telemetry, image content understanding and manipulation of still and moving images for on-board processing and human decision making.
CTIE will establish fixed and wireless local area and wide area communications networks, telephone connections, on-site communications testing of backbone and access networks, avionics, site wide radio communications, localisation and tracking of radio sources, medium and long range communication including satellite, radars as appropriate, radio and mobility. CTIE will also be responsible for the on-site telecommunications centre.
For further information on CTIE activities contact: Professor Greg Egan, Monash University +61 3 9905 1827
Monash University Intelligent Robotics Research CentreWithin the intelligent Robotics Research Centre at Monash University a number of previous and ongoing Australian Research Council funded projects have supported research in intelligent robotics.
Topics have included indoor mobile robots, swarm robotics, virtual reality based teleoperation and a number of outdoor robotic projects in rough terrain and on-water navigation.
Several vehicles, including a tracked hydraulic motor machine suitable for agriculture and fire-fighting (can pull a 2-tonne payload), an amphibious six-wheeled vehicle suitable for search and rescue and exploration and a small excavator for teleoperated earth moving have been fitted with sensor and motor control devices for robotic functionality.
The complement of sensors available include Global Positioning Systems (GPS), laser rangefinders, optical gyroscopes, flux gate compasses, passive stereo vision and pan/tilt/roll sensors. Both autonomous and teleoperated functionality have been researched.
Many of the projects worked on over the last ten years are ripe for commercialisation but appropriate partners and realistic testing grounds need to be established. Expertise within the IRRC includes computer vision, ultrasonics, tactile force and ofactory sensing, pattern recognition, signal analysis, virtual reality, robot navigation, artificial intelligence and real-time computer systems.
The IRRC will mobilise its extensive research through further development of its robotic systems in real environments available at the VRRF.
For further information on IRRC activities contact: Professor Ray Jarvis Monash University +61 3 9905 3470
Facility Management Committee
Professors Greg Egan and Ray Jarvis on the jetty at Port Welshpool with an Aerosonde robotic aircraft
Photo: Brian Taylor, Aerosonde Ltd.
Professor Michael (Mike) L. Brisk
Ph.D., BE (Syd.), FTSE, FIEAust, FIChemE, CPEng.
Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.
Virtual SiteURL: http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/VRRF
Professor John Bird
Former Head of Department (Ret.) Centre for Animation and Interactive Media, (RMIT), Former Head of Department Centre for Animation and Interactive Media, (Swinburne). Member, C.I.R.C.I.T (RMIT)
Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria, 3168, AUSTRALIA
Dr Russell (Russ) Naughton
Former Head of Department (Ret.) Production Operations, Radio Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Creator, Radio Australia Online (Ph.D. Thesis by Project)
Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria, 3168, AUSTRALIA