Australia’s Journey Toward Sovereign Drone Capability

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The Australian Defence Force would quickly begin using locally made surveillance drones under an Albanese government push to make the nation’s military less dependent on cheap imported technology from China.

The government’s Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA), a new agency created to spur innovation in the defence sector, has sought advice from Australian companies and research institutions about options to develop a sovereign, military-grade uncrewed aerial system (UAS) capability.

The Department of Defence and the Defence Force announced earlier this year that they were downing their extensive fleets of drones made by Chinese tech giant DJI because of security concerns.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said it was a “no-brainer” for the government to encourage the use of locally made drone technology and expressed dismay the issue had not been addressed until now.

Dario Valenza, founder of Sydney-based commercial drone company Carbonix, said he was glad to see the government was addressing its “massive reliance” on imported Chinese-made drones.

“Australia actually has a very mature drone ecosystem, but it’s all geared around the commercial side,” he said.

“In our case, we supply friendly overseas militaries like the United States but we’ve had very little indication of the path to become a supplier for the Australian military … Until now, there didn’t seem to really be a coherent strategy.”

Valenza said: “Drones are going to be crucial for militaries in the future for everything from situational awareness information to delivering spare parts and medicines.

“If we can’t make them ourselves, we’re relying on someone who may decide to stop supplying us with them.”

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