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Doing more, together in aerial autonomy

23 November 2023
DSTG Chief Dr Greg Bain (left) presents Professor Javaan Chahl with a Defence Commendation acknowledging his valuable partnership with DSTG and Defence.
DSTG Chief Dr Greg Bain (left) presents Professor Javaan Chahl with a Defence Commendation acknowledging his valuable partnership with DSTG and Defence.

Australia's Chief Defence Scientist has presented a Defence Commendation to Professor Javaan Chahl, DSTG Joint Chair of Sensor Systems at the University of South Australia (UniSA). The commendation recognises Professor Chahl's valued, enduring partnership with DSTG, and praises his support to the operational analysis (OA), concept development and technology experimentation of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS).

Reality check for analysis

Over the past decade, Professor Chahl has worked closely with DSTG's aerospace operations analysis teams to analyse key challenges and propose conceptual operations that create tangible impact on Defence capability. In this domain, his deep understanding across a wide range of sensor, effector and aircraft technologies and his understanding of the art of the possible has grounded DSTG analysis in reality and has supported feasible options.

According to Professor Chahl, the university sector is a useful environment for considering low-cost UAS systems. As a result of decades of knowledge, experience and situational awareness, his team has been uniquely placed to support the creation of technology prototypes ready for experimentation in partnership with Defence, as well as helping with the transition of UAS into Defence service. Last year, for example, the Wanderer UAS moved from an idea to a flying prototype in just a couple of months, and was transitioned into RAAF-led operations earlier this year.

'My main role for a project like Wanderer is to provide subject matter expertise on project steering and integration,' says Professor Chahl. 'Historically, uncrewed aircraft programs are at high risk of death spirals of scope creep. Wanderer has avoided these traps and is a simple, affordable, robust system suited to a range of Defence activities.'

Finding meaning working with Defence

'Building aerial capability to match a need is an intriguing problem involving multiple disciplines, organisational knowledge, and an appreciation of complex constraints,' says Professor Chahl. 'Having work that is necessary and which exercises my skill set keeps me motivated.'

Working with Defence continues to provide meaningful applications for his research.

'The motivation is clear, ethical and outside oneself,' he reflects. 'And the path between activity and benefit to the community can be uniquely direct in Defence.'

Professor Chahl's team is currently working with DSTG's Defence scientists on topics related to UAS capabilities, detection of hazards and operations analysis.

'We are very interested in navigation in environments where access to global positioning systems are denied. Right now we are developing solutions that are working quite well using celestial navigation and optical cues from the ground. It is exacting research, but it is very satisfying when mathematics, new algorithms and interfacing results in a small foam drone knowing its real-time position from the stars.'

Thank you for your on-going partnership, Professor Chahl!


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