Known as Wildcat, the technology can help boost safety and productivity for companies in mining, agriculture and defence that rely on robots to navigate complex and unstructured environments where there are no GPS systems or pre-existing maps.
Developed by Data61, CSIRO’s data and digital specialist arm, Wildcat is being trialled by commercial partners in Australia including CSIRO spin-out Emesent, BIA5, AutoMap, Strategic Elements Ltd (ASX:SOR) subsidiary Stealth Technologies, as well as GeoSLAM in the UK.
It’s part of a broader push by CSIRO’s Data61 to make low-cost, easily adoptable technologies available for SMEs in a range of sectors, including manufacturing, supply chain, mining, energy and construction, to trial and integrate into their business, as part of its Early Adopter Program (EAP).
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said that the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was largely dependent on Australia’s ability to develop and harness technology.
“There is no business as usual in the post-COVID-19 economy. Our success as a nation relies on our ability to unlock the potential of industry to create high-paid, lasting jobs,” Minister Andrews said.
“By harnessing our world-class science and technology in fields like AI, robotics and automation, we can open up new markets and take more of our products to the world. Wildcat is an example of the sort of technology we need to get behind.
“Initiatives like CSIRO’s Early Adopter Program have the potential to help small and medium-sized businesses to create new value, enhance productivity and grow more high-paid jobs to boost recovery.”
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the pandemic presented a moment in time for small businesses to ride the digital transformation momentum.
"At this pivotal time in our history, the inclination is to batten down the hatches and postpone investments, when actually small business who double down on innovation can be part of driving our recovery from this pandemic-led recession and land us back in a much stronger position," Dr Marshall said.
"COVID-19 has disrupted every element of our lives, and while the devastating loss of life can’t be understated, we have an opportunity to determine the new kind of Australian economy we want to emerge from this crisis – one driven by innovation.
"Just as science and technology have been guiding our health and emergency response, so too will they drive our economic response and recovery from this pandemic."
Dr Jon Whittle, Director of CSIRO’s Data61 said the new EAP program was aimed at accelerating technology adoption in SMEs by providing new technologies that are easily adoptable, translatable and reasonably priced to deliver fast return on investment.
“The Early Adopter Program is about getting new technology into the hands of industry as early as possible so they can trial, tweak, and ultimately create new value for their business,” Dr Whittle said.
“Industry 4.0 automation technologies like Wildcat will play a particularly important role in enabling the digital transformation of industries. We’re seeing our partners create new value by using Wildcat to improve their understanding of different environments from irrigation systems, to mines, to bushfire fuel loads.
“The technology can map, navigate and create digital replicas of systems and places, which helps to inform planning and can lead to better ways of doing things. It’s this kind of adoption of next generation technology that will help businesses create a competitive advantage.
Wildcat is a next-generation 3D SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) software system. The system is being used by a team of CSIRO scientists competing in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, an international competition for autonomous systems, funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The team came out in fourth place against a field of international robotics experts in the Urban Circuit in February 2020 and is the only Australian entity participating in the challenge.
Fred Pauling, Wildcat Technologies Lead at CSIRO’s Data61, said making Wildcat more accessible to small and medium businesses in industries like mining, construction, agriculture, and defence, offers immense opportunities to improve safety and productivity.
“These industries are increasingly deploying robots to navigate complex and unstructured environments where there are no GPS systems or pre-existing maps,” Mr Pauling said.
“While there are some commercially available options, none meet the needs of industry or directly support the operation of these robots.
“Through this project, we’re already seeing the benefits from early adopters like Emesent, which is using Wildcat to map mines. We’re looking forward to seeing how other companies involved in the program will adapt the technology to enhance the way they work.”
The Early Adopter Program builds on CSIRO’s mission-driven focus to power small and medium-size enterprise growth in Australia by improving access to research and development (R&D). Learn more about the EAP here.
Small and medium enterprises interested in learning more about EAP, or the range of SME services offered by CSIRO, please contact EnquiriesTeam@csiro.au
How partners are using Wildcat in different industries
Autonomous Security Solutions
Charles Murphy, Managing Director, Strategic Elements Ltd, said
"Stealth Technologies is developing the Autonomous Security Vehicle (ASV) for perimeter security in sectors such as transport, energy, defence, government and utilities providing critical services. We are also exclusively collaborating with giant US Fortune 100 Company Honeywell to build autonomous security vehicles for the correctional justice sector.
The Wildcat SLAM technology can potentially provide game changing features to our autonomous robotics platform with a key technological advantage in enabling its ASV’s to work in teams and provide enhanced security and surveillance solutions to its customers."
Mining and digital twins
Matt Warner, Director at AutoMap, said
"Access to technologies like Wildcat will pave the way for key industries to take an insular look at their operations, helping to drive key operational performance benefits with agility and adaptability in mind.
"In the eight months we’ve been integrating Wildcat, we’ve found new ways to support industries like mining, improving how they map new underground environments and use this data to create digital twin systems for improving planning and analysis."
Shawn Tansley, Managing Director at BIA5, said
"The use of technologies like Wildcat have the potential to transform key industries for Australia; from agriculture and biodiversity right through to emergency response planning. It’s business as usual for a lot of organisations, even as they navigate through these challenging times, but the ability to foster long standing collaboration and have access to vital technologies can have a profound impact on business performance.
In the planning for how we are looking to integrate the Wildcat technology, we’ve seen it can be applied to help with everything from irrigation and groundwater testing through to fueling new technologies that map outdoor trails to monitor bushfire fuel loads tominimisethe danger these possess. Access to these technologies is crucial to Australian businesses adopting a flexible, forward-thinking approach to their operations."
Dr Stefan Hrabar, CEO and co-founder atEmesent, said
"Since adopting Wildcat in 2018 forHovermap, our smart mobile scanning unit, we have been able to achieve two main goals — aid our ability to map data in GPS-denied environments and support real-time state estimation and offline 3D map generation. This has been critical as we tackle high-risk, rugged environments, such as mines, so we can build more precise and globally correct 3D point clouds in real time.
“Collaboration with CSIRO’s Data61 has been crucial in ensuring we remain at the forefront of drone autonomy and mapping developments, particularly amid the global pandemic. Most recently we were able to conduct a trans-continental remote demonstration for a drone service provider in South Africa, sendingHovermapdown a tunnel in Queensland — something that wouldn’t be possible without the Wildcat technology to support."
Data driven business
Dr Graham Hunter, CEO GeoSLAM, said
"The potential SLAM represents across industry globally is significant. Emerging SLAMs like Wildcat will continue to fuel the growth of data driven spatial information. From the built environment and finding increasingly smarter ways of understanding and managing buildings, to assisting in the way we manage and protect the natural world, Wildcat SLAM will play an important role in data driven digital transformation.
"GeoSLAM introduced the first handheld SLAM product commercially, and the team are actively testing and developing solutions based on the strongest and most robust SLAM."