New Centre Research Leadership Structure – 1 July 2020

In response to the external review led by Prof Ian Chubb in February 2020 and in light of new growth in projects and funding, the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre is realigning key roles as the Centre expands 

From 1 Jul 2020, Dr Simon Ng will be Chief Engineer (CE) and Dr Kate Devitt will be Chief Scientist (CS). 

Research leadership will continue with the triumvirate of Jason Scholz, Kate Devitt and Simon Ng—each bringing their unique and complimentary backgrounds and experience to accelerate sovereign capability in trusted autonomous systems for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).  

Chief Engineer – Associate Professor Simon Ng 

Simon graduated from Monash University in 1998 with BSc, BEng and PhD (Eng)He began his career as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at CSIRO before joining Defence Science & Technology (DST) in 2001, where he developed techniques for multi-sided non-zero sum techniques for strategic experimentation. In 2004, Simon moved to DST in Melbourne, specialising in applying systems engineering and systems thinking methodology to a broad range of programs in support of Defence surveillance and response capabilities, Defence space operations and the development of autonomous aerial systems. He was formerly DST’s Group LeaderJoint Systems Analysis and Aerial Autonomous Systems, and Associate Director of the Defence Science Institute. He remains a DST scientist one day a week, fulfilling the role of Australia’s National Lead on The Technical Cooperation Program Technical Panel AER TP-12, UAS Integration into the Battlespace. Simon is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company DirectorsHe brings this wealth of experience to the role of Chief Engineer at Trusted Autonomous Systems.  

Chief Scientist – Dr Kate Devitt 

Kate Devitt graduated from Melbourne University with BA(hons) history and philosophy of science and psychologyAfter working with Accenture on the CAMM2 Project for Defence she started her PhD at Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyKate has used her expertise in cognitive science, epistemology and ethics to lead transdisciplinary teams building decision support tools for industry as well as co-founded a startup (mentored through MIT REAP). In 2018 she joined DST as a social and ethical robotics researcher and maintains a part time permanent position with DST two days a week alongside her role as Chief Scientist of the TASDCRC. Kate is currently assigned to ADF Covid-19 Task Force providing specialised advice regarding social and ethical aspects of data, technology and AI systems that may be considered, developed and employed as part of the Operation. She is Australia’s representative for the TTCP AI Strategic Challenge and is contributing to NATO and UN discussions regarding frameworks for human control of robotics and autonomous systems. Kate is leading the ’Trust and Safety’ chapter for Australia’s Robotics Roadmap (V.2). She is co-editor of Good Data (2019) with realistic methods on how data can be used to progress a fair and just digital economy and societyShe is also a research fellow with the Co-Innovation Research Group at the University of Queensland, an inter-disciplinary research group crossing conventional boundaries comprising social robotics, interaction design, software engineering and human-computer interaction. Kate is passionate about how autonomous systems should be designed within the large sociotechnical systems within which they are built and deployed, particularly ethical, legal, and regulatory structures to achieve social license to operate and trusted adoption.  

CEO – Professor Jason Scholz 

Jason is the Chief Executive Officer at Trusted Autonomous Systems and also contributes research leadership in the Decision Sciences. His formal background in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (Bachelors Degree and PhD), and over 30 years experience in AI and decision-making covering all areas of Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I).  

Jason was Exchange Scientist with the US Air Force Research Lab in New York stateHe was research leader for the Vital Planning and Analysis (VIPA) system which saved Defence well over $120m and is in operational use. Prior to commencing with Trusted Autonomous Systems, he was responsible to the Chief Defence Scientist for the Strategic Research Initiative in trusted autonomous systems, and to the five-eyes community as chair of the Autonomy Strategic Challenge which culminated in 2018 in Autonomous Warrior 18, the largest trial of autonomous systems in air, land, sea environments ever conducted. Jason is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a tenured Innovation Professor with RMIT University. Jason is passionate about building sovereign capability for the Nation, and ensuring the high-impact research, development and innovation of the Centre transitions for operational use by the ADF.  

TASDCRC – Advance Queensland Research Fellows

The Advanced Queensland Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC Fellowship program provides three year grants to the best researchers in Queensland, Australia, allowing them to pursue innovative and transformational research projects aimed at tackling open problems in AI and autonomy. The Centre grants, and the opportunity the Centre offers for its Fellows to engage directly with critical stakeholders in Defence and industry, maximises the chance of translation of the work into practice.

Trusted Autonomous Systems is pleased to announce the appointment of three new Research Fellows who, individually and collectively, personify the strength of Queensland’s publicly funded innovation sector.  We are thrilled to have them on board and look forward to watching their projects grow and bear fruit.

Dr Andrew Back (UQ) is developing new techniques for extracting models of meaning from limited data. His approach, Synthetic Language and Information Topology (SLAIT) AI, promises to dramatically accelerate the ability of a machine to understand and extract information from novel data and situations using algorithms that can build models of information contained in that data with very limited samples. He has already applied his work to building models of language in text using very small samples and detecting unauthorised alterations that don’t fit with those models.

Dr Jessica Korte (UQ) is applying her expertise in Auslan (Australian sign language) to create technologies that support rich, real-time visual-gestural communication between machines and humans. Jessica’s research will develop the underlying theory associated with visual sign  and implement this within a technology pipeline that promises to improve the lives of the deaf community in Australia, but that will also directly support the Centre’s desire to allow Australia’s soldiers to meaningfully interact with and control robots in the field.

Dr Pauline Pounds (UQ) believes in solving challenging problems using the simplest methods possible, and is a leading proponent in embodied intelligence, where difficult cognitive problems are resolved by exploiting a robot’s embodiment. Pauline’s research project involves developing and exploiting robotic whisker technology to allow autonomous systems to move and avoid obstacles in highly turbulent environments or in highly constricted indoor spaces without needing to use heavy cameras or complex, expensive lidar systems.

You can read more about their projects on our website at This blog will continue to bring you updates on and announcements about the Fellows’ work. Blog announcements will be reposted on TASDCRC Twitter and LinkedIn so you don’t miss anything!

QinetiQ Australia to design and construct the Queensland Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Test Range

QinetiQ Australia has been awarded a contract to design and construct an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flight test range (FTR) on behalf of the Queensland Government.

The FTR will be located at Cloncurry Aerodrome in North West Queensland and will consist of access to a commercial quality runway, dedicated hangar and workshop, range control centre, range control system including a primary surveillance radar and other surveillance and tracking equipment, dedicated airspace and regulatory approvals for UAS FTR operations.

QinetiQ Australia Managing Director Greg Barsby said, “The Queensland Government has a vision to be a world leader in UAS technologies and QinetiQ is proud to support this through the creation of the flight test range facility at Cloncurry.”

“Together with our partners, QinetiQ manages some of the world’s most advanced range facilities across the land, maritime and aerospace domains. By drawing on our global experience, QinetiQ and our partners will deliver this facility, the largest of its kind in the region.

“The QinetiQ team is looking forward to working with the Queensland Government, Cloncurry Shire Council and regional SMEs to develop this facility. It will be a critical component in the overall drone ecosystem, as an enabler and connector of high-technology UAS programs and initiatives.”

The initial capability offered by the facility will support all weight classes of UAS for routine flying operations, demonstration activities and test and evaluation trials of moderate complexity. Future phases of development will support the full range of ground and flight test activity, providing an Australian home for the conduct of highly complex developmental test programs.

Queensland Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation Kate Jones said the project will provide a key missing element for UAS research and development. “The Queensland Government was the first in Australia to launch a drone strategy, and now we’re well on the way to becoming the nation’s drone technology capital.”

Ms Jones said QinetiQ, a leading science, engineering and defence technology company has been appointed to manage the construction of the facility which is expected to be finished later this year.

This contract award reinforces QinetiQ’s position as the leading expert and partner for the development and management of mission critical test and evaluation ranges.



Notes for Editors:

About QinetiQ

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Welcome to the TASDCRC Game-Changer Blog

Dear Readers,

To ensure timely updates on Trusted Autonomous Systems work we are starting this Blog version of Game-Changer news for public information. Posts will generally be accompanied by Twitter @tasdcrc or LinkedIn TASDCRC releases. Given the nature of our Centre, bringing together Defence, Industry and Research for the benefit of the ADF we also welcome Game-Changer contributions from our Participants to provide broader awareness of progress and opportunities.

After nearly 12-months at the helm of the Centre I am proud of our achievements. Research and development is well underway and although most projects are in their early stages, much promise has been demonstrated. Engagement of Defence at all levels has increased, with new technologies being accelerated and developed under a new direct ADF funding model. We now have many Research Fellows and Research Associates attached to the Centre’s “common good” activities as well as projects and we will be featuring them and their fields of research through this Blog.

The Centre was subject to an external detailed review in February 2020 by an expert panel led by Prof Ian Chubb (ex Chief Scientist of Australia). The outlook of that report now received by the Centre’s board, is highly supportive and encouraging Centre growth as a trusted Defence partner. I expect to advise more detail on the outcomes and directions from that soon.

Unfortunately it was necessary to postpone our inaugural Symposium in May 2020 due to COVID-19, but we look forward to hosting this event 27-29 April 2021 in Townsville. The Centre has been engaged in many Webinars and seminars over the last few months, directly and through our common-good Activities. These have included, leading the Australian Robotics Roadmap development for Defence; as well as the Safety and Trust chapters. Also, recently in support of the Centre for Naval Analyses Seminar with the US, where I had the privilege of being on a panel with former US Deputy Secretary of Defence the Honorable Robert Work, former IARPA Director Dr Jason Matheny and Dr Lawrence Lewis of CNA in Washington DC.

I look forward to keeping you posted more regularly on the work of our Centre.

Professor Jason Scholz
Trusted Autonomous Systems CEO