Boeing's autonomous systems program expands to Australia

By Patrick C. Miller | March 13, 2018

The Boeing Co. will establish a rapid innovation program over the next three years in the state of Queensland, Australia, to develop next-generation autonomous systems for the independent operation of air and sea vehicles.

The program—part of a new partnership agreement with the Queensland government—will be Boeing’s largest autonomous systems development program outside the U.S. Chris Raymond, Boeing vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, said the Queensland program is part of the company’s strategy to accelerate autonomous technology for commercial and defense systems.

“As autonomy becomes increasingly common, Boeing will continue to pioneer autonomous technologies from seabed to space—setting a new standard for safe, successful missions that amplify human capabilities,” he said.

Shane Arnott, director, Boeing’s Phantom Works International business in Australia, said, the company will work with small- to medium-sized businesses in Queensland to develop autonomous systems technology.

“The Queensland Government’s clear vision to invest in cutting-edge industries is backed by a progressive air space regulator, the state’s innovation culture and a talented network of local suppliers—creating an outstanding environment to innovate and experiment with autonomous vehicles and the systems and sensors that drive them,” he said.

Arnott added that Boeing’s program will complement work by the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defense Cooperative Research Center by taking research outcomes and developing them into exportable commercial products for the global autonomous market.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland premier, said the investment would contribute to the states’ long-term economic growth, global commercial opportunities and local job creation. “The 131 jobs that will come with this autonomous vehicles program will grow Boeing’s Queensland workforce—and these are truly jobs of the future,” she said.

Boeing said its first Advance Queensland partnership with the government has proven successful. The broad-area UAS situational awareness system developed by Boeing in partnership with Queensland businesses was exported to the U.S. in late 2017 and successfully completed its first flight test in Mississippi in January 2018.

Insitu, Boeing’s unmanned aircraft systems subsidiary, has been flying its medium-sized, fixed-wing ScanEagle in Australia for the Shell-owned Queensland Gas Co. for more than two years. In November 2017, Insitu announced that it had signed a new contract with the company to fly beyond-visual-line-of-sight missions for inspections and environmental assessments.