Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

BAE Systems Australia has unveiled a joint research programme with the University of Sydney to develop advanced forms of decentralised data fusion and autonomous navigation that may form a key element of future unmanned combat air vehicles.

The Autonomous Navigation and Sensing Experiment Research (ANSER) programme could also have future applications to manned aircraft such as Eurofighter, airborne early warning and control systems (AEW&C), and manned and unmanned airborne ground surveillance systems.

BAE plans to demonstrate the two technologies late next year using a squadron of the University's low-cost "Brumby" UAVs to show co-operative operations between multiple platforms with minimal human involvement.

Preliminary work began in 1998, while the first major funded development phase started late last year and runs until the beginning of 2002. A follow-on phase will identify opportunities for embedding the technology in a range of aircraft systems.

ANSER has parallels with US distributed data processing concepts, but is jointly funded by BAE in the UK as well as Australia.

The autonomous navigation system is intended to localise an air vehicle within an unknown environment and simultaneously create a reference map.

The data fusion research aims to develop a co-operative decision making architecture able to create a common environmental and operational picture. An initial focus is to demonstrate the technology's use in improving battlefield communications relay.

Brad Yelland, from BAE Australia's Missiles and Decoys division, says ANSER is intended to provide "a significant step forward in providing the potential for a lot of autonomy for airborne platforms".

The initial development phase, Yelland says, will seek to use existing aircraft, communications and sensor systems in an architecture dominated by ANSER technology.

Candidate programmes suitable for the technology include Australia's Project Wedgetail Boeing 737 AEW&C, and the Joint Project 129 airborne surveillance project for the army, he says.

Source: Flight International