This group of technologies includes robots and other machines that perform tasks on their own with limited guidance from humans. It also includes satellites and systems that precisely measure position, navigation or timing data.
This page belongs to: List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest
- Advanced robotics
- Autonomous systems operation technology
- Drones, swarming and collaborative robots
- Advanced imaging technology
- Advanced sensor technologies
- Satellite and positioning technologies
- Advanced aerospace technologies, including propulsion, hypersonics and guidance systems
- Nuclear technologies, including for submarine propulsion and waste management
These technologies can be used for:
- faster and more accurate surveying and mapping from the air and space
- more reliable and accurate navigation in sectors like agriculture, aviation, construction, transport, and mining and resources
- safer airline and maritime navigation
- navigating without GPS
- improving public safety
- increasing productivity and securing our supply chains by using robots to manufacture more things in Australia
- improving workforce safety and efficiency
- increasing efficiency in agriculture
- reliable, efficient transport and logistics for land, sea, air and space
- autonomous military applications
- exploring other planets
- improved animal welfare management.
Global research trends
Research into these technologies has been growing over the past 10 years, peaking in 2019 with almost 120,000 research publications published around the world.
Global research rankings
China and the United States do the most research in these areas.
The graph below shows the number of related publications each jurisdiction published between 2018 and 2022. It also shows what proportion of each jurisdiction’s publications were ranked in the top 10% of publications worldwide. This is based on how often the jurisdiction’s publications on core research subjects were cited.
Patent filings are a way to measure how innovation is being commercialised. Patent data can also be used to identify potential collaborators and export markets.
The graphs below show numbers of patent families filed. A patent family is a set of patents filed in different jurisdictions for the same invention.
The Australian industry
Australia has adopted robotics and autonomous systems across many sectors, particularly in agriculture, healthcare and mining. Robots have been used to monitor crops and livestock on farms, helping address worker shortages and improving productivity. The technology is also used for planetary exploration and remotely operating space assets.
Positioning, navigation and timing is used by many Australian industries, including:
- monitoring essential services such as electricity supply and transportation
- providing accurate timestamps for financial transactions
- synchronising computer networks.
Locata is a ground-based positioning system developed in Australia that is more accurate than GPS.
Our earth observation systems and satellites are expected to contribute $1.7 billion to the economy by 2025. We have a strong satellite communications industry that is starting to embrace optical systems.
The jurisdictions we collaborate with most in these research areas are China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
Australia wants to be a leader in developing international technical standards for autonomous systems, robotics, positioning, timing and sensing. We are supporting Australian industry to engage more effectively with standards development organisations.
Autonomous technologies can help Australia:
- increase productivity in existing sectors
- develop new industrial sectors and create jobs
- manufacture more of our goods here in Australia.
However, there are some risks with social acceptance for these technologies, particularly the perceived threat of robots taking Australians’ jobs. We can reduce these risks and capture the benefits of autonomous technologies through public education, guidance and good governance.
Autonomous systems are forecast to deliver around $19 trillion in additional economic value globally between 2020 and 2030. Australia can benefit by moving quickly and continuing to invest in these technologies.
Autonomous technologies could increase our workforce productivity by up to 50%. They are particularly important for regional Australia, where more resources are needed to attract and retain skilled workers and support economic growth.
Australia is also an ideal place for position, navigation and timing technology infrastructure because we:
- have low noise and light interference
- are well positioned to host ground stations that link earth and space.
Publication and citation data on this page was collected from Clarivate’s Web of Science and InCites. Data analysis was performed by CSIRO.
Patent data collection and analysis was performed by IP Australia using data from the European Patent Office’s PATSTAT 2022 autumn edition.