Australian Defence Forces Test New Uncrewed Surveillance Technology
Australian Defence Forces Test New Uncrewed Surveillance Technology

Australian Defence Forces Test New Uncrewed Surveillance Technology

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A new type of unmanned surveillance technology was used on Operation Resolute for the first time. The seventh rotation of Australian Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Group (RFSG) used Bluebottles, developed by Ocius Technologies, which can provide a 24/7 on-water surveillance capability, with the flexibility to be readily manoeuvred to respond to emerging surveillance requirements or tasks. During the two-week deployment in October, the contingent conducted surveillance and reconnaissance on and around remote islands off north Western Australia for foreign fishing vessels and evidence of illegal activities. The contingent of 18 personnel was drawn primarily from Northwest Mobile Force (NORFORCE) and 10th Force Support Battalion, with attachments from the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment and 1st Combat Signal Regiment.

Major Alexander Brent, the Maritime Border Command (MBC) Liaison Officer to Rotation 7 said,”The use of the Bluebottles, and the embedding of an Ocius employee within the task unit headquarters, added significant capability to the operation. In addition to persistent surveillance, we were able to use the Bluebottles to conduct more specific reconnaissance tasks, such as beach landing site reconnaissance and avenues of approach to specific islands in advance of the ground force. By controlling the Bluebottles remotely, the ground force was free to be able to move independently of the USVs (uncrewed surveillance vessels) and focus on other tasks, such as onshore reconnaissance and patrolling, while still benefiting from what the Bluebottles collected.”

A Blue Bottle maritime unmanned surveillance vessel patrolling on Operation Resolute, in remote Western Australian waters near Maret Islands. (Photo by SGT Jarrod McAneney/Australian Government Department of Defence)

The trial by NORFORCE will likely inform future teaming with unmanned maritime assets to support amphibious and littoral combat manoeuvres. As one of three Regional Force Surveillance Units which form the 2nd Division’s RFSG, NORFORCE provides a persistent screen in northern Australia, living by the motto ‘Ever Vigilant’. Several times a year the RFSG screen is supported by enabling assets, including medical teams, remote command-and-control nodes and Australian Border Force (ABF) assets to enhance the effectiveness of the screen as part of Operation Resolute. The contingent conducted surveillance and reconnaissance of about 5500 square kilometres.NORFORCE Patrol Master, Captain Stephen Sewell, said the efforts increased situational awareness of illegal activities in the region.

“The soldiers conducted surveillance from observation posts, dismounted patrols across the islands and patrols in the littoral environment by watercraft. Working alongside the Bluebottle uncrewed surveillance vessels, as well as ABF Dash-8 aircraft, the information our contingent gathered will enable potential responses from other government agencies,” CAPT Sewell said.

Australian Defence Force soldiers from Regional Force Surveillance Unit deploy from a LCM-8 landing craft on Zodiac boats alongside the Blue Bottle maritime surveillance vessel deployed on Operation Resolute, near Winy Alkan Island. (Photo by SGT Jarrod McAneney/Australian Government Department of Defence)