Last week, the Australian Department of Defence announced that it will begin research and development for the use of swarms of tiny autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) (i.e., underwater drones) to detect and clear naval mines. This research and development project will cost approximately $15 million and span over five years in partnership with Australia’s Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre and Thales Australia.

The goal of the project will be to assess researchers’ design, development and testing of various teams of micro AUV swarms as well as autonomous surface vessels (AUS) in order to develop new systems of defense. Teams of AUV and AUS could survey an area before manned vessels are deployed. This type of undertaking will include the ability to autonomously collect environmental data in order to conduct mine countermeasure missions. It relies heavily on artificial intelligence, big data and connectivity.

This type of investment and involvement with underwater and surface drones will surely continue to grow across the globe. In January 2020, the U.S. Navy partnered with L3Harris Technologies to test underwater drones for undersea missions. Just last month, L3 Harris Technologies received a contract from the U.S. Navy as part of a $281 million program for medium unmanned surface vehicles.