The need for trusted autonomous systems

In Defence, most applications of field robotics have been in carefully-managed, or uncontested, situations with remote human pilots or operators, but that is now changing. These situations and systems are increasingly being challenged with electronic warfare and adapted commercial technologies. The situations in which these robotic systems are most needed for the future are contested, actively hostile and unpredictable, where the pilot may not be human, and the consequences of mission failure may be high. This approach is termed ‘trusted autonomous systems’. The inventory for robotic capabilities that fit this description is bare.

The anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments described earlier, whether land, sea or aerospace domains, each with their unique challenges, have capability implications for trusted autonomous systems. The requirements include: operating where manned platforms cannot survive, without the guarantee of direct communications, extending manned platform sensors, performing trusted decision-making and achieve effects, using alternate navigation to GPS, and using own (organic) ISR and communications.

In Defence, trusted autonomous systems are about the whole system: humans and machines working together to achieve operational missions and goals. The premise for this is that teams of humans and machines can perform better than humans alone, or machines alone. The strengths of one, be that human or machine, can offset the weaknesses of the other.

The Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) program “Tyche” conducts strategic research in Trusted Autonomous Systems. The program seeks to develop and understand new technologies that enable machines to maintain fitness and act trustfully in an uncertain and open world. A biennial review of the program was published in 2017. Tyche continues to lead advances in these technologies for the ADF and maintains strong relationships with science and technology partners from the Five Eyes (FVEY) community and throughout the region.