Unmanned vehicle trialled as part of Talisman Sabre

Image credit: Sergeant Jake Sims

During exercises as part of Talisman Sabre 2019, the Australian Army trialled an unmanned ground vehicle.

Built by Praesidium Global, a Queensland-based defence manufacturer, the vehicle, known as a “Mission Adaptable Platform System Mule”, can carry a total weight of more than 500kg of equipment.

One of a number of autonomous solutions being experimented to work alongside humans in combat situations, the vehicle has become part of the Australian Army’s array of products.

“Coming up with how we were going to incorporate them into our daily routine was hard initially, but the more we used it, the more we found ways to integrate it,” said Lieutenant Patrick Muller.

Uses have included transporting replenishment items such as water, food and rubbish from a central point, as well as moving cabling for electrical runs.

“Other ideas that were floated including using them to carry ammunition to forward defensive pits, as well as carrying defensive stores – wiring, sandbags – which is a difficult task with a small amount of people,” said Mueller.

The vehicle can be augmented with a hydraulic crane arm, a surveillance module and litters for carrying injured individuals.

As with other innovations in automation, the vehicle is designed to be easy to use, and is operated with a standard gaming controller, using only four buttons. According to Corporal Aaron Le Jeune, the potential applications of the vehicle could expand beyond those already trialled in the current exercises.

“The capability is there and it would make life in the field easier for both us and people in other jobs,” said Le Jeune.

During Talisman Sabre exercises, Australian personnel with be joined by soldiers, sailors and airmen from the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

The series of exercises provides an opportunity for new technology such as the mule vehicle to be trialled in simulated combat scenarios.

“A lot of the tasks we’re doing is trialling the system, but in the long run I think something like this would help us out,” said Le Jeune.