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Australia’s Defence High Performance Computing Centre to rise

Photo Credit: Defence Science and Technology

A Defence High Performance Computing Centre is to be constructed at the Defence Science and Technology (DST) site in Edinburgh, South Australia, according to a recent press release.

According to the Minister for Defence Industry, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC and Assistant Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon David Fawcett, Defence was in the final stages of procuring a head contractor to deliver the works on the A$ 68 million project.

The DST provides Defence and national security agencies with scientific advice and innovative technologies to meet Australia’s defence and security challenges.

High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing, also known as supercomputing, plays a vital role in the design, development and analysis of modern weapon systems and national security systems, including future ships and other major defence platforms.

The supercomputing capability of the Defence High Performance Computing Centre is intended to support Defence’s major acquisitions through their lifecycle.

The works will deliver the new fit for purpose facility. The head contractor will also be responsible for procuring and managing subcontractors to construct the works.

Consistent with the Defence Policy for Industry Participation, the head contractor will develop a Local Industry Capability Plan to maximise the opportunities for local businesses to be involved in the project.

Working directly with the project will entail sub-contract packages while working indirectly will be through manufacturing, supply and transportation of the equipment and materials.

Construction is anticipated to commence in mid-2019 for completion in late 2020.

Maritime application

In other news, a Defence scientist is a key member of a team developing a maritime application for DST’s patented single-photon avalanche detector (SPAD) technology.

SPAD sensors are designed for low-light detection of objects.

The ultimate operating concept is for a SPAD sensor and laser system to be mounted on a gimbal, on a hovering drone tethered above the ocean surface, scanning the depths for underwater vehicles and sea mines.

Testing began with the sensor being mounted off a wharf at Adelaide’s Osborne shipyard.

The ultimate system would use a tether comprising power supply and fibre optic data cabling to remove the need for wireless communications.

Sterling effort achieves proof of concept

After refining the system, the scientists travelled to HMAS Stirling to point their SPAD sensor off the side of a boat out to sea.

They also took the opportunity to measure the open water transparency using Secchi disks, which are pizza-sized disks painted with alternating black and white quadrants.

These are lowered into a body of water until no longer visible. This depth of disappearance, called the Secchi depth, is a measure of the transparency of the water.

While the team successfully demonstrated underwater detection, there is still plenty of room for improvement, including optimising the optics and image processing.

As revolutionary as the current SPAD chip is, its resolution is a mere 32×32 pixels. However, the new 256×256 version of the chip will dramatically improve the sensor’s capability.


This “3D” chip has been designed in collaboration with long-time collaborators Milan Polytechnic, Monash University and chip fabrication specialists from Malaysia and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

Two chip layers, one each from Malaysia and from Germany, will be joined together to create a unique sensor.

Initial trials with a custom-built, heavy-lift, unpiloted multicopter version of the SPAD system were conducted recently over the waters off the South Australian coastline.

The team’s achievements in a short span of time, which was spurred on by an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities, have been an amazing engineering feat.

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