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RMIT research to show how Industry 4.0 can transform defence

Sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) may just transform the way defence technology is managed, according to a bold new research by the RMIT University engineers.

A radical proposal for an “all-knowing system of systems”, powered by (AI), to manage procurement and maintenance decisions and calculate fleet readiness has been developed, according to a recent press release.

What is VDOT?

The Virtual Design, Optimisation and Testing (VDOT) framework  is an integrated environment where digital representations of systems, models and simulations, together with new thinking in data analytics and AI, are all adding value to the flow of information and sensor data.

Associate Professor Adrian Orifici from the University’s School of Engineering said making sense of the mountains of incoming data was a major challenge facing defence and other complex industries.

VDOT could transform the industry by providing a framework that will also include virtual testing to evaluate mission performance for new aircraft or other assets.

It can even recommend design changes based on previous performance data.

It also proposes a disruptive approach, one that can help predict the cost of ownership of an aircraft that may be in service with the RAAF for up to 40 years.


This can bring about smarter acquisition and value for money by evaluating first a new fleet in various battle scenarios before making a procurement decision.

In this way, the proposed AI system would oversee the massive amounts of data from a plethora of sources to inform decisions that save time, money and possibly, lives.

Professor Pier Marzocca, Associate Dean of Aerospace Engineering and Aviation at the University, explained that smart materials with built-in sensors could collect data for each aircraft or component on strain, repair needs and the type and number of deployments, then feed that into this system.

In the not-too-distant future, all aircraft will have a digital twin with all the information on materials and specifications added to over time with flight data, and engine data, among others.

The system will then become like a human body where health reports can be generated in an instant.

Industry 4.0 comes to Defence

VDOT provides the first real look of what Industry 4.0 looks for defence by harnessing these disruptive technologies in order to optimise complex systems.

Industry 4.0 is defined as the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.

It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Implementing VDOT, or similar frameworks, would require significant work in assigning responsibilities and IP controls between many currently separate systems and databases.

This, therefore, underlines the complexity of implementing Industry 4.0.

The feasibility of developing such a system has been systematically investigated and proven but complexities over access and IP security are some of the challenges to be overcome.

Their virtual framework serves as a platform offering a way forward for defence to embrace an Industry 4.0 system and optimise these complex systems.

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