The Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO) in Australia has partnered with the US Department of Defense to launch an international competition to build autonomous ground robots for military operations.

The Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge aims to attract innovative solutions from research industries to address technology gaps in technology used in urban combat zones.

The challenge is to develop a proposal demonstrating teams of robotic vehicles that can autonomously coordinate activities and execute a mission in a changing urban environment.

The robots must detect, monitor and neutralise a number of potential threats to meet the challenge goals.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Material and Science Greg Combet said that while remote-controlled robots are being deployed in operational areas, the army needs smart, intelligent and fully autonomous systems that can take over from humans in conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The first five short-listed competitors will each receive research grants of $100,000 to develop their proposals into prototypes.

After they have successfully demonstrated their prototypes, the top three finalists will receive research awards of $750,000, $250,000 and $100,000, respectively.

The finalists will also qualify for further funding under the US Joint Concept Technology Demonstrator Programme.

If an Australian competitor is among the top three finalists, funding will be allocated through the Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program, managed by the DSTO.

The five shortlisted competitors will be invited to present their projects at the Land Warfare Conference in November 2010.