Insects Inspire New Generation of Australian Weapons

11 March 2009

Australian army captain in Iraq (file photo)
Australian army captain in Iraq (File)
Australian researchers have studied the navigation skills of insects to develop a pioneering weapons-guidance system. The insect-inspired tracking technology has been launched at an air show in the southern state, Victoria.  

Australian weapons developers have been inspired by the unfailing capacity of insects to spot and zero in on food and the ability of bees to avoid colliding with each other in a swarm.

Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization has been looking at how the existing research into insects' navigation and sight could make airborne weapons more reliable and improve their ability to hit moving targets.

Through its collaboration with several electronics companies, a new system known as 'Bioseeker' has been developed.

Project Manager Philip Henschke says the study of insects has been vital.

"A variety of insects have a unique capability to find the moving target and that's the particular holy grail of what we're interested in from a weapons application in defense," Henschke explained. "What we've actually done is looked at the mathematics of how an insect sees and we've taken that mathematics and from that we've looked at an algorithm that will enable us to do what we call a bio-image generation, a map of the movement within a scene."

This information was then analyzed in special software to create a system designed to find, track and destroy moving targets.

The Bioseeker technology is scheduled to undergo final testing, later this year. Its architects believe that, if it is eventually used in battle, it will make soldiers safer by taking them further away from the enemy.

Researchers aim to produce a low-cost seeker-and-guidance system that could eventually be reduced to the size of a coffee cup. Possible applications include placing the technology inside rockets used on the Australian Army's Tiger Attack helicopters.

The Australian military is relatively small, with about 50,000 personnel. However, the defense force has a reputation for technological innovation.

The government in Canberra has said that, by 2020, it hopes to bring into service a fleet of Super Hornet jet fighters and an early-warning aircraft, as well as a range of new helicopters and airborne refueling airplanes.

The Australian military is involved in peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Sudan and the Solomon Islands and with the US-led campaign in Afghanistan.