Archerfield-based UAV and electronics design company RFDesign (RFD) was selected as one of 20 Queensland small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to partner with Boeing on the delivery of its Advanced Autonomous Platform Technologies project.
Specialising in unmanned systems, communications, drone operations and manufacturing, RFD are a key partner in this significant project which aims to boost Queensland’s industrial capability in developing next-level advanced autonomous technology.
The project set out to develop an on-board command and control technology for autonomous vehicles, by applying artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to ‘teach’ an uncrewed aircraft (the ‘brain’) to understand what is required of it. This included communicating and collaborating with other autonomous aircraft (‘the voice’).
RFDesign was key to the project, providing platform design and flight test services to support Boeing’s development of onboard AI processing systems. A fleet of turbine powered jets was built and operated in Queensland to fulfil this role.
We sat down with RFDesign’s Operations Manager George Sutherland to understand how RFD supported the project.
What could RFDesign offer as part of the project?
RFD has significant experience with development, manufacture and operation of complex fixed wing and multirotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). An in-house design and manufacturing capability was critical to enable high quality aircraft to be built in short time-frames. In addition, having staff with manned aircraft operations really enabled safe and efficient procedures to be defined to fulfil complex multicrew, multi-aircraft operations.
RFD was able to provide a complete concept to delivery solution for Boeing, including UAV platform design, manufacture, tuning, CASA approval and turnkey deployment in regional Queensland.
How would you describe gaining a contract with Boeing?
Being selected as a major project partner by Boeing was outstanding. The whole RFD team was very excited to be contributing to an innovative project.
Working with Boeing is a significant achievement. Delivering a successful outcome for a complex, multi-year project was very rewarding for the entire team at RFD.
How important do you think a project like this is to Queensland?
This type of ground-breaking project required a very wide range of skills, resources, and manufacturing capability. Significant advances were made in the skills needed to design and manufacture these high-performance aircraft. These capabilities will allow future development of unmanned systems to be accelerated in a rapidly developing industry. Being able to deliver this with local Queensland content is a great outcome for the state of Queensland.
How important a role does the Queensland Government, via Advance Queensland, play in attracting projects like to this to the State and what does it mean for industry?
Queensland Government support for development and investment in new technologies, new manufacturing capability, and training of Queenslanders is critical to ensure Australia is self-sufficient and able to offer world class products and services in an ever-changing worldwide arena.
The Queensland Government provided $18 million to the Advanced Autonomous Systems Platform Technology project in 2018, with the aim of boosting Queensland’s industrial capability in developing next-level UAV technologies.