AROSE and Robotics Australia boost space collaboration


Monday, 08 July, 2024

AROSE and Robotics Australia boost space collaboration

In August 2023, Robotics Australia Group and remote operations group AROSE announced that they have combined with the aim of strengthening Australia’s robotics and automation ecosystem. Now they have taken that partnership to NASA with the aim of collaborating on future missions to the moon and Mars.

The mutually beneficial relationship between the space and resources sectors in Australia has matured significantly in recent years. This model of collaboration is now attracting the attention of other industries as they search for improvements to productivity and safety, and better environmental outcomes.

Space exploration has uncovered technology innovations that deliver enormous benefits on Earth. For example, waste reduction strategies applied to space exploration can help solve some of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century: smaller footprint, lifecycle waste utilisation, zero carbon energy — the perfect formula for sustainability back on Earth.

The international space sector is also looking to Australia’s mining sector for innovations to enhance space exploration to the Moon and Mars.

The CEO of remote operations collaborator AROSE, Leanne Cunnold, said NASA has asked Australia to design, build, test and remotely operate a lunar rover due to Australia’s capabilities in remote operations and autonomous systems.

“When the Australian-made rover rolls out across the Moon in a future scientific mission for NASA, it will be a nation-building demonstration of how the sharing of expertise and technology improves outcomes in space and on Earth,” she said.

Increased partnerships between like-minded organisations, such as Robotics Australia Group and AROSE, are strengthening Australia’s robotics and automation ecosystem. The links between the space sector and other industries are growing stronger as a result.

In May, AROSE Director Space & Resources Michelle Keegan led the largest mining and METS sector mission to the NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The mission showcased the innovative approaches to exploration, novel robotics and sensing technologies designed by Australia’s METS sector that could be deployed into space exploration.

“The mission was based on NASA’s desire to better understand and collaborate on new approaches to exploration, in which Australia has many decades of experience to leverage,” she said. “Together we will continue to build and refine new approaches to exploration with the goal of delivering improved exploration outcomes applicable to both on and off world.”

Australian mining technology company IMDEX joined AROSE on the mission to NASA, showcasing its remotely operated BLASTDOG technology, which combines a robotics platform with advanced down hole sensing for use on a mining bench.

“IMDEX is known globally for its exploration drilling technology, deployed on approximately 80% of global exploration drill rigs. This knowledge can also be applied into off-world applications,” Keegan said.

Another innovative company at the NASA workshop was Datarock, which provides machine learning solutions that redefine how the mining industry extracts valuable geological and geotechnical information from images, video and point clouds.

Australian company IMDEX recently showcased its robotic BLASTDOG technology to NASA.

Australian company IMDEX recently showcased its robotic BLASTDOG technology to NASA.

“The combination of these technologies with other drilling technologies already deployed on the Moon and Mars could form part of a future vision for planetary exploration,” Keegan said.

Keegan said AROSE is driven to help expand opportunities for Australian businesses by connecting the METS sector to the space sector, and so enabling two-way technology transfer.

“By expanding into the space sector, non-space suppliers can become more financially resilient and help diversify the Australian economy,” she said. “Also, through increased cross-sector collaboration staff on both sides are acquiring new skills and expertise.”

The Australian Government’s recently released National Robotics Strategy outlines a vision to develop and adopt sovereign robotics and automation solutions to secure Australia’s future.1

The strategy is supported by the $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia package announced by the Australian Government in this year’s budget, as well as the existing $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. Support for enabling technologies, including robotics and automation, is a key pillar of the latter plan.

Robotics Australia Group Founder and Chair Dr Sue Keay was a member of the government’s advisory committee helping shape the strategy. Keay said it is a myth more robots would lead to widespread job losses and that investing in robotics and automation leads to employment growth.2

“While the adoption of robotics and automation may disrupt or change particular tasks in certain industries, research indicates that robotics will lead to a net growth in jobs by complementing and improving the productivity and job growth of many sectors,” Keay said.2,3

“Like many countries, Australia is experiencing an aging population, labour and skills shortages, and low productivity. As well as delivering solutions to these structural issues, the widespread application of robotics and automation has the potential to achieve significant social and environmental good, including mitigate and better manage the impacts of climate change such as bushfires, floods and coastal erosion.”

Robotics Australia Group is currently working on an updated Robotics Roadmap for 2025 to raise the profile and capability of robotics in Australia, to identify the challenges and opportunities available for robotics and to highlight accomplishments in the creation and application of robotics technologies.4

Robotics Australia Group is calling on Australian robotics industry players to contribute to the roadmap through a series of sector-specific webinars to gain feedback from sectors including construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, health care, defence, agriculture, education, arts, sports and emergency response.

For details of the Robotics Roadmap 2025 webinar schedule got to: https://www.roboausnet.com.au/robotics-roadmap-2025.

1. Department of Industry Science and Resources 2024, National Robotics Strategy, Australian Government, <<https://www.industry.gov.au/publications/national-robotics-strategy>>

2. SBS News 2019, Robots aren’t stealing our jobs, new report says, <<https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/robots-arent-stealing-our-jobs-new-report-says/uxcvy3evy>>

3. Georgieff A and Milanez A 2021, ‘What happened to jobs at high risk of automation?’, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 255, OECD Publishing, <<https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/what-happened-to-jobs-at-high-risk-of-automation_10bc97f4-en>>

Top image: Artist’s impression of the AROSE lunar rover now in its design stage.

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