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Sydney Students Win US Army Robotics Contract

Three former University of Sydney PhD students have been awarded a $57 million contract with the United States Marine Corp to trial advanced robot technology for training soldiers in live firing exercises.

The University's Australian Centre for Field Robotics senior research associate Alex Brooks, together with research fellows Alex Makarenko, and Tobias Kaupp, worked on the project for eight years through their company Marathon Robotics, which is based at the Australian Technology Park at Eveleigh.

The Rover, or the Autonomous Robots Networked for Live Fire Training (ARNLT) system, will be trialled by the US Marine Corps Systems Command in Orlando, Florida.

The Marathon Robotics system uses free-ranging robots protected by armour plating to train marksmen. The robots are programmed to mimic human behaviour to provide a realistic, challenging and interactive training scenario for marksmen.

The Rover is human-sized and weighs 150kg. It has been designed to be a mobile target system that can move freely and can execute complex pre-planned scenarios. The Rover works in teams and when one is shot, the rest of the robots respond by scattering and running for cover.

The robots use a combination of technologies including GPS, high-speed wireless Ethernet and COTS technology.

This unique system was designed in conjunction with the Australian Department of Defence to facilitate challenging, realistic training.

The NSW Government helped the development of the robotics technology through its support of the consortium of research groups, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Systems, and in May hosted a visit by the US Marine Corps to assess the technology.

The NSW Government is helping Marathon Robotics target its technology to a range of international export markets including Europe.

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