AI, ML and trusted autonomous systems

Robot and human handshake

UNSW is a significant world player in the development of Artificial intelligence (AI), Data Science (DS) and Machine learning (ML) technology.

Home to Australia’s leading Engineering faculty, leading school of Computer Science, and leading school of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW’s extensive track record in the research and development of AI and its application is well recognised globally. Its academic staff hold many prestigious fellowships, its graduates are sought after across the globe and its staff, students and alumni have started many AI technology enterprises.

Australian and international students choose to study AI at UNSW in their thousands. Their robots are some of the best soccer players in the world.

UNSW has substantial capability and capacity in AI and autonomous systems including: 

  • vehicle control including neural control, fuzzy logic and adaptive control  
  • obstacle avoidance, optimised path planning, swarming, structure of motion, autonomous landing of UAVs on moving platforms  
  • self-organising uncrewed systems and operations  
  • secure UAV communication and autonomous navigation of UAVs in contested and congested and denied electromagnetic environments. 

UNSW is also taking a leading role in pushing forward the codification of the use of AI in the law and in understanding and highlighting the ethical boundaries where AI techniques can and should really be used for the benefit of society.

All up, UNSW has over 300 researchers involved in pushing forward the power of AI related techniques for the good of society. These researchers participate in over a dozen research centres, labs and facilities across all faculties at UNSW, including at ADFA@UNSW Canberra providing Australia’s defence forces with world leading teaching and research.

This unique capability has developed organically over time but currently lacks a cohesive means to bring them all together.

Application domains

  • Grey zone operations​
  • Cognitive augmentation​
  • Next gen command and control​
  • Human performance and behaviour​
  • Unmanned systems​
  • Swarm operations and tactics​
  • Surveillance and sensing​

Trusted autonomy is a game-changing area of defence research centred on understanding and engineering the interaction space between humans and machines.

Competitive advantage

  • Unique combination of skills covering robotics, AI, simulation and ethics
  • Long-standing and deep ties with Defence
  • Outstanding facilities for simulation and robotics
  • Focus on trusted human-autonomy teaming


  • More effective solutions to technological challenges including the deployment of autonomous vehicles, activities at the human-machine interface, high-fidelity military simulations and multi-robot operations in unknown and complex environments
  • More agile and accurate decision-making cycles

Successful applications

  • Swarm-based machine learning with knowledge sharing
  • Demonstration of learning-to-fly from scratch on real unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) using neural networks and evolutionary fuzzy systems
  • Demonstration of visual flight control of UAVs for flight in cluttered areas and landing on moving platforms
  • Development of human performance surrogates for high-fidelity military simulations
  • Hierarchical deep learning algorithms for robot control

Capabilities and facilities

  • Large indoor UGV/UAV flight area and VICON motion capture system
  • Distributed simulation laboratory
  • Virtual environment and simulation laboratory
  • EEG equipment for monitoring human cognitive state