The development of robotics and autonomous systems in Australia: key issues, actors, and discourses

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Robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) are amongst a plethora of new and emerging technologies states are seeking to develop and use to gain military advantage in an environment of intensifying strategic competition. Australia is a key player when it comes to autonomous systems, with trusted autonomous systems (TAS) being earmarked as a priority area. RAS have taken an increasingly prevalent place in Australian research, discourse, military thinking, and defence industry. How Australia thinks about these technologies reveals important insights into their broader defence and strategic outlook, including their understanding of how the character of warfare is changing, and their approach to alliances and partnerships. In this article, I will trace how TAS became a priority area for defence in Australia, and provide a stocktake of the key developments in RAS which have taken place since 2016. This will include key actors, funding, discourses, and technologies. Taking stock of RAS in Australia reveals several key themes which stand out: the centrality of the concept of control, trust, ethics, interoperability, keeping ahead of adversaries, reducing danger to defence personnel, and developing systems which are cheap, small, and single-use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • lethal autonomous weapons systems
  • robotics and autonomous systems
  • Trust
  • trusted autonomous systems


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