Data61 funds $3m robotics facility 

James Riley
Editorial Director

CSIRO’s Data61 has invested more than $3 million to open a new purpose-built robotics and autonomous system research facility in Brisbane with hopes it will serve as a testing ground for the wider technology ecosystem.

The Brisbane-based Robotics Innovation Centre is a 600-square-metre facility that houses the biggest motion capture system in the Southern Hemisphere used to validate data collected by robotics systems.

It also features a 13-metre by 5-metre pool for testing aquatic robots, a dedicated mechanical and electronics engineering lab, large sheds for indoors systems testing, an open-air unmanned aerial vehicle flying area, and outdoor testing areas including a forest and creek for unmanned ground vehicles.

Sue Keay: Robotics centre to play a key role in driving industry-research collaboration

Sue Keay, who was recently appointed to lead Data61’s cyber-physical systems research program, is optimistic the centre will play a key role in fostering collaboration between researchers, industry, government and academia in a way that has eluded Australia.

“I’m passionate about developing more technology clusters that are broader than just robotics. I think the robotics ecosystem can’t exist in isolation from the rest of the technology space,” Dr Keay told

“What we’ve seen in other countries is when we’re able to cluster activities and really demonstrate strength in a particular area, the environment begins to attract investment. Once that happens it’s a fantastic way to ensure the talent and technologies that we’re demonstrably creating here in Australia have a reason to stay.

“Government plays a very important role in helping to foster the environment that would encourage this clustering. I don’t think we’re there yet.

“We still have a bit of work to do, but hopefully this facility will be a way to get these clusters started and that technology ecosystem working together better,’ Dr Keay said.

One project that has been spearheaded by the centre is the development of a 3D mobile mapping technology using laser range finders.

Another project is the testing of technology to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments as part of a three-year Subterranean Challenge funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In other robotics news, Sydney’s Macquarie University will celebrate five years of its For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology robotics competition this week.

It will see high school students from 10 countries including Australia, United States, China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Africa compete in designing, building and programming robots – that can reach up to six-feet tall – before using them to complete required tasks as part of the competition.

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