Queensland’s partnership with aerospace leader Boeing Australia on its advanced autonomy program has paid big dividends for the state creating jobs and opportunities for Queensland small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said supporting Queensland manufacturers and small businesses was part of the Queensland State Government’s plan for economic recovery from the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Twenty innovative Queensland companies worked together with Boeing in the development of their Advanced Autonomous Platform Technologies project,” Miles said.
“This project made significant steps in progressing autonomous mission systems technology and is another great achievement for Queensland’s growing aerospace industry.
“Local involvement by the more than 20 Queensland companies with Boeing has the potential to open up future opportunities for these companies.”
The project set out to develop an on-board command and control technology by applying artificial intelligence algorithms to ‘teach’ the uncrewed aircraft’s ‘brain’ to understand what is required of it. This included communicating and collaborating with other autonomous aircraft.
Innovation Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Palaszczuk Government provided $18 million to the project in 2018, of which over $9 million was provided to Queensland companies, alongside Boeing’s considerable investment.
“The project has supported over 90 jobs and given local small-to-medium businesses the opportunity to work with one of the world’s great companies,” Hinchliffe said.
Boeing Phantom Works International Director Ms Emily Hughes said over the life of the three-year project, “we completed a range of incremental test flights, with the final test milestone demonstrating five high performance surrogate jets operating autonomously in a team”.
“The Queensland Government’s vision and investment in advanced manufacturing, drone infrastructure and test facilities is critical for companies like Boeing to continue innovating in Australia,” Ms Hughes said.
Minister Hinchliffe said the project’s aim was to boost Queensland’s capability in developing new aerospace technology as part of the Government’s Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan and Queensland Drones Strategy and support recovery from the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“We are pleased that Boeing has taken advantage of our newest Queensland Flight Test Range facility in Cloncurry to complete their testing,” Hinchliffe said.
“Unmanned aerial vehicle technology will define the future of aviation, from aerial transport and logistics, defence and supporting frontline emergency workers.
Member for Stafford Jimmy Sullivan said Advance Queensland’s investment is supporting more opportunities to grow high-value jobs locally and in the region.
“Queensland companies know that the Palaszczuk Government is backing their potential in high growth sectors, such as the UAV and aerospace sector. Investing in this project is about investing in the jobs of the future and creating more job opportunities in STEM fields for Queenslanders,” Mr Sullivan said.
Under the Advance Queensland project, Boeing worked with the 20 local SMEs including Microelectronic Technologies (MeT), ImmersaView, RFDesign, and QuintessenceLabs to develop solutions to a range of complex technology challenges.
Brisbane-based MeT was approached to provide custom electronics design support to meet a specific set of communications and connectivity requirements.
“Our involvement in the project enabled MeT to upskill and increase our in-house production and test equipment,” MeT General Manager Mr Brendon Lang said.
“It has created an international platform for our company to showcase our skills and expertise in local design and manufacturing which could enable us to support similar defence and aerospace projects in the future.”
Mr Seppo Saario from RFDesign, one of the key suppliers of the project, said the engagement with Boeing over the project enabled the company to strengthen its capabilities and offerings in the autonomous vehicle and system space across multiple industries.
With the project now complete, the Queensland Government and Boeing will continue their partnership in defence advanced manufacturing. Pending orders, Queensland will become the final assembly production home for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in half a century.
Queensland is home to more than 30 per cent of Australia’s UAV industry. The global commercial UAV market was valued at over US$5.8 billion in 2018.