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Emerging Technology Scan: May

Emerging Technology Scan: May

Whether you’re interested by new drone technology, quantum computing or the latest mobile phone tech, this month’s METS has something for you.


 RMIT research team with support from the Defence Science and Technology Group have developed a drone that is based on bird flight patterns. By using the same air currents used by birds, the drone can stay in the air for longer and have an extended flight range. The ‘bird’ drone in contrast to the current drone models is more energy efficient and versatile. The ‘bird’ drone could establish new horizons for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. For the Army, this is a project to watch. 


Viv is a new generation virtual assistant that may revolutionise artificial intelligence (AI). Viv is a form of AI that can determine the intent of a question and can then write its own program in order to answer it. The developer of Viv, Dag Kittlaus gave the example of travelling from one place to another. ‘I need to get to San Jose, give me my options’ and Viv would know how close you are to the train station, when the next train is coming, where the nearest cars, how much it was going to cost…”   By contrast most voice assistants and bots are programmed with preselected responses to specific queries. Kittlaus’ mission is for Viv “to be the intelligent interface for everything.”

Viv could shape how the Army thinks about its communication systems, moving towards a system that includes AI, not just humans. Viv or a virtual assistant like it could potentially be integrated into combat systems, vehicles and soldier systems. This could improve the ability of units to cooperate with each other by increasing the speed of communications software.


new quantum computer chip that has been developed by Professors David Moss and Roberto Morandotti that could revolutionise how computing functions. To explain what quantum computing is, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, provides a pithy explanation here.

The scientists have incorporated entangled particles on to the one chip. Entangled particles contain particles that have electrons and protons which remain connected even if the particle is separated over long distances. The particles allow the quantum chip to process much faster by operating over multiple channels rather than a single channel used in ordinary computer chips. Professor Morandotti explained the significance of his team’s research that by creating a process compatible with the computer chip industry, “we have opened the door to the possibility of bringing powerful optical quantum computers for everyday use closer than ever before.” 

Quantum computer chips may create new possibilities for how the Army utilises its computer systems. The Army uses computers across a wide range of areas from administration to operations. The importance of computer chips for the Army is increasing as the procurement of new combat support systems and digital radios rely upon secure and efficient computer chips. If successful, quantum computer chips could be used in future projects to provide secure communications systems.


Stretchy Batteries: The recent manufacture of ‘stretchy batteries’ could be the future for new wearable technology. Using miniature batteries and solar cells connected by wires that are sandwiched in layers of rubber, stretchy batteries can be worn on skin. The new batteries can bend accordingly to body size, unlike current wearable tech on the market.

Liquid Body Armour: Developed by a Polish company, Moratex, Liquid Body Armour (LBA) has the capacity to stop both bullets and shockwaves that can cause internal injuries. LBA is a liquid known as Shear-Thickening Fluid that instantly hardens on the impact of a projectile. The shockwaves that occurs on the impact of a bullet is a weakness of the current body armour, which does not provide proper protection to internal organs. The creators of the new LBAargues that they have addressed this problem by using the liquid to cushion the impact of the bullet. This may have significant repercussions for the body armour used by Australian soldiers.

The Army Futures Team identifies emerging threats and opportunities in technology, encourages and promotes professional discussion and debate about their potential implications for future land warfare.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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