Translating excellence in engineering research and training into strategic defence advantage for Australia and its allies
We are strongly committed to working with our Defence partners in industry and government to ensure the safety and prosperity of Australia. Defence technologies are advancing at an enormous rate, and it is critical to ensure that technologies, processes and tools remain ahead of the state-of-the-art to prevent technological surprise. Through our many partnerships, our world-class researchers are leading fundamental and applied research programs across a broad range of disciplines, including:
- Advanced sensors and photonics
- Computer engineering
- Networks, communications, cyber
- Robotics and machine learning
- Computational design and engineering
- Materials design and modelling
- Medical devices and technology
Each of these areas has a substantial track record of existing and past projects which have delivered tangible outcomes for our research partners - in most cases unique and exciting sovereign capabilities.
Leading research groups
Our advanced sensors and photonics portfolio includes:
- Photonic signal processing: Photonic circuits for ultrafast and wideband signal processing; Tuneable, programmable photonic circuits for AI.
- On-chip LIDAR: Low-power consumption, small size, high resolution and low cost; Autonomous vehicle and security communications.
- Photonic enhanced RF front end: Miniaturised on-chip photonic enhanced RF front-end. High band width beamforming and signal processing.
- Integrated photonic circuits operating in harsh environment: Wide bandgap semiconductor photonic circuits for high-frequency, high-temperature, high-power, and radiation resistance operation.
- Advanced sensing: Sensitive and selective nanophotonic arrays for trace gas sensing, detecting weak magnetic field, and brain activity monitoring.
- Acoustic and audio: Detection & localisation related to supersonic events, gunshots, submarines. Audio surveillance, sensor arrays or drones.
The photonic engineering group has unique capabilities in the development of nanophotonic circuits for sensing and signal processing, from wafer to device to prototype. Our Computing and Audio Research Laboratory specialises in sound event detection, recognition and localization, both in air and underwater with capabilities in compressed sensing and sparse recovery, sparse-recovery beamforming, deep network architectures for audio processing, ray-space analysis and distributed sensor arrays. These techniques can be applied to other sensing types including radar, lidar, sonar.
We have a strong ongoing portfolio including successful past and present projects: ARC Linkage (2020-2022) ; Multiple contracts with Department of Defence and Industries (2013-2017; 2019-2021, 2020-2022) and ARC Discovery (2018-2020, 2021-2023).
The Computer Engineering Lab focuses on how to use field programmable gate array (FPGA), VLSI and parallel processor technologies to solve difficult computing problems. Our strengths include:
- Binary deep neural networks (DNNs) for high-speed inference
- On-chip training of DNNs
- Low-latency time series prediction
- Real-time, high dynamic range object detection*
- Integration of software defined radio with AI technology**
- Spectral weather prediction***
- Enhancement of military working dog performance****
- Plasma receiver for CubeSats
We develop novel architectures, applications and design techniques to solve problems in signal processing and machine learning. In collaboration with Xilinx Research Labs, we pioneered binarised neural network implementations which allow higher performance than that of GPUs.
This has enabled applications such as our NGTF project, “High Speed Machine Learning using FPGAs” project where we demonstrated the feasibility of 500K classifications per second for the radio frequency modulation classification problem. To achieve this, we combined a software defined radio and a machine learning inference engine on a single device. Radio frequency machine learning is an important building block in Electronic Warfare and surveillance applications.
Successful past and present projects include a DIH Bio-inspired high dynamic range imagery (2019), DSTG/Data 61 NGTF ”High speed machine learning using FPGAs"( 2017/2019), TAS DCRC Distributed Autonomous Spectrum Management (DUST) (2019-2022).
Networks, communications, and cyber are arguably some of the fastest moving research fields that are of significant importance to defence and intelligence, and the Faculty of Engineering has recognised research strengths in:
Encrypted Traffic Analytics and Defence
- Extracting intelligence from encrypted communications*
- “Side-channel-free” communication protocols**
- Real-time internet scanning infrastructure
Secure physical-layer protocols
- Light weight secret key generation
- Information theoretic modelling of data leaks in physical layer protocols
- Modems and software for high data rates
Reliable and low latency satellite networks for IoT
- Algorithms for mitigating non-linearity effects and resource allocations
- Blockchain based security algorithms for satellite communications
Our researchers are internationally recognised expert in coding theory and its applications in wireless engineering, leading the advancement of the underpinnings of low latency, high data rate, ultrahigh reliability infrastructure need to enable Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.
We have outstanding capabilities in the understanding and monitoring of networks and internet infrastructure. We have developed algorithms and software tools for profiling enterprise-class networks and content identification over encrypted channels. Our tools ranges from capturing network traffic at high-speed without altering information contained in the traffic, to the development of new traffic profiling techniques capable of understanding both encrypted and clear traffic using deep learning algorithms. Our project outcomes help to identify anti-social behaviours and improve the effectiveness of national security surveillance activities.
Our successful past and present projects include DSTG/Data 61 ”Wireless Cyber Situational Awareness" (2017/2020) and DSTG/Data 61 "Deep Bypass: Clear & Dark Real-time Traffic Profiling with Deep Learning" (2017/2021).
The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) is dedicated to the research, development and dissemination of autonomous and intelligent robots and systems for operation in outdoor environments. The ACFR is one of the largest robotics research institutes in the world and has a long history of close engagement with industry, partnering to deliver impact across a variety of domains, including defence, mining, agriculture logistics, transportation and environmental sensing. ACFR and our researchers in Aerospace Engineering partner to deliver exciting solutions for both UAVs and manned aircraft, leveraging our advances in aerospace design, robotics and sensing to provide integrated products of unrivalled capability. Our specific strengths include:
- SLAM – Perception, Localisation and Mapping
- Autonomous control, motion planning, integrity
Decision-making under Uncertainty
- Active learning and informative planning.
- Adversarial policy optimisation in electronic warfare and communications
Data Fusion and Inference
- Data fusion and mapping in air, ground and marine environments
- Causal inference and inverse problem reasoning such as in underground structure detection
- Custom design rapid prototyping of unmanned aerial systems (UAS)
- Range of commercially deployed land, sea and air unmanned systems
Examples of defence funded projects include world first demonstrations of multi-UAV distributed data fusion and distributed control, the development of novel sensing technologies using vision, laser, radar and hyperspectral sensors, a DIN funded drone on demand project for printing drones to achieve specific mission objectives and the development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle systems for littoral survey.
- Computational Aerodynamics: Design and delivery into application of fast and highly accurate tools
- High Speed Combustion: world-leading computational modelling tools for Rotating Detonation Engines.
- Computational Aeroelasticity : Transonic buffet, non-linear aeroelastic response, fluid-structure interactions
- Topology Optimisation: Evolutionary Structural optimisation with multiple static and dynamic objectives
- Design Optimisation: state-of-the art design and optimisation tools for bespoke on-demand platforms
Our materials design and modelling capabilities span the full range of length-scales from individual atoms through to the macro scale, including:
- ex-situ and in-situ electron microscopy and atom probe tomography
3D Printing Technologies
- World class advanced manufacturing facility
- Light weighting, Defence supply chains
- Sonar and ultrasound
- Characterisation of structures and phase transformations
- Internationally-renowned composites research group
- Land systems, military aircraft, UAVs, naval vessels
Materials Characterisation; Degradation & Uncertainty Qualification
- Characterisation of brittle materials subjected to impact
- Durability reliability evaluation of degraded structures
- Epistemic uncertainty in corrosion model
We have Australia’s best microscopy facilities and expertise, including ex-situ and in-situ electron microscopy and atom probe tomography. Our composites research group is internationally renowned, including several highly cited researchers who are ranked in the top 1% in their fields. It includes high-quality fundamental research in materials science and technology and to promote collaboration with industry in the design, engineering, development and manufacturing technology of advanced materials. We proudly have an international reputation for high-quality research, equipped with exceptional facilities for material processing, characterisation, computer simulation, and mechanical testing. There are multiple ongoing research programs focussing on the characterization of brittle materials subjected to impact and blast loading, and durability reliability evaluation of degraded concrete structures due to environmental effects such as corrosion.
As an example project, our $3m AUSMURI project brought together Australian and US academics, constructing a team including around 25 postdocs, HDR students and honours students. The project aims to understand how 3D printing parameters affect the microstructure and consequently the mechanical properties of metallic materials. The enhanced understanding will provide guidance on how to appropriate select 3D printing parameters for metallic materials with superior mechanical properties.
Enormous advancements in health care can provide correspondingly enormous impacts in Defence applications. Our research spans:
Human: performance, rehabilitation and acute monitoring
- Wearable technologies
- Tissue engineering
Materials: biofabrication and extreme conditions
- Bioprinting and interfaces
- Surface modification
Surveillance: detection and tracking
- Sensors and AI
While the human brain remains unparalleled in its ability to perform highly sophisticated information processing on extremely limited energy resources, our research in the field of nanoelectronics aims to lead to the development of a new breed of tiny intelligent devices to collectively emulate this capability in hardware more closely than ever. Such devices are expected to be able to solve a wide range of issues involving sensory perception. Understanding the influence of the electrical properties of the body can enable us to learn more about neural and cell signalling, leading to better design of electronic implants and ultimately a better understanding of how the brain works. In parallel with the Medical Imaging theme, imaging technologies are pervasive in our lives, from the camera on our smartphone to the MRI system capable of showing the structure of our brain in exquisite detail. Our researchers are developing new and improved applications of these technologies within the field of biomedical engineering, enhancing our knowledge of living tissues in both classical hospital settings but also in portable devices. Our biomedical engineers are part of the DIN Defence Industry Quantum Research Consortium: Quantum Sensing of Magnetic Fields which includes the exploration of applications in the medical field.
Core research team
Advanced sensors and photonics
Networks, communications, cyber
- Professor Branka Vucetic, Professor Yonghui Li, Dr Suranga Seneviratne, Dr Kanchana Thilakarathna, Dr Shuaiwen Song, Professor Joseph Davis, Professor Bernhard Scholz, Professor Albert Zomaya
Robotics and machine learning
- Professor Stefan Williams, Professor Ian Manchester, Dr Gilad Francis, Professor Fabio Ramos, Professor Sally Cripps, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, Dr Viorela-Simona Ila, Associate Professor Dries Verstraete
Computational design and engineering
- Associate Professor Ben Thornber, Associate Professor Matthew Cleary, Associate Professor Dries Verstraete, Professor Liyong Tong, Emeritus Professor Grant Steven, Dr Gareth Vio, Associate professor KC Wong, Professor Chengwang Lei
Materials design and modelling
- Professor Julie Cairney, Professor Simon Ringer, Professor Brian Uy, Professor Kim Rasmussen, Professor Gianluca Ranzi, Professor Anna Paradowska, Professor Xiaozhou Liao, Dr Ali Hadigheh
Medical devices and technology
Collaborate with us
6/5/21 Prof Xiaoke Yi “Nanophotonic sensors for Defence”
20/5/21 Dr Suranga Seneviratne “Cybersecurity in an AI-driven Digital Society”
3/6/21 A/Prof Ben Thornber “Computational Aerodynamics in Defence Applications”
17/6/21 Prof Hugh Durrant-Whyte “Transforming Defence”
1/7/21 A/Prof Dries Verstraete “Drone-on-Demand: Next Gen Drone Solutions for Defence”
15/7/21 Dr David Boland “Opportunities for Hardware Accelerators in Defence Applications”
29/7/21 Prof Ania Paradowska “Application of neutron based techniques to defence sector”
12/8/21 Dr Gilad Francis “Decision-making under Uncertainty”
26/8/21 Prof Stefan Williams “DSI-Defence Remote Underwater Surveillance Capabilities”
09/09/21 Dr. Andre Kyme, “Opportunities for Biomedical Engineering Research”
23/9/21 Dr Sam Davey STaR Shot Lead, “Remote Undersea Surveillance”
07/10/21 Prof Julie Cairney “Materials characterisation for defence”
17/11/21 Maurice Amzallag, ‘Digital Engineering’, Thales Australia