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Australian army chief’s push for future drone army

The head of Australia’s army has called on scientists and the local defence industry to help build a drone army to keep Australia safe.

Speaking at a defence conference in Canberra today, Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Griggs said Australia’s relatively small army must be padded out with robotic and autonomous systems in order to be an effective force in the future.

“We will always want to network, support and empower our soldiers. And there will always be soldiers,” he said.

“But they will need our best efforts to lower the risk envelope in which they operate, in an increasingly lethal environment.”

Lieutenant General Griggs said robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence were becoming an increasingly important part of the arsenal of Australia’s partners and rivals, and Australia must move quickly to keep up.

“They are part of a wave of technological development that will change our world. As with any approach there are choices in how we handle it. We can ignore it, pursue more of the same and risk being left floundering in the wake,” he said.

“Or we could start paddling now.”

Lieutenant General Griggs said pairing Australian soldiers with robotic and autonomous systems may be the foundation of the next generation of our armed forces.

He said China, in particular, was moving quickly towards building unprecedented capacity in autonomous systems, controlled by artificial intelligence, and Australia needed its researchers and industry to deliver home-grown solutions to avoid being left behind.

“Might human-machine teaming and the application of key technologies in enable our relatively small army – of 45,000 total force – to generate cost-effectively, the effects of an army many times that size?” he said.

“I need industry committed to delivering to our soldiers today. We need those capabilities. And I seek to work with industry to experimenting about the army’s longer term future. “

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