The current landscape

Robotics, autonomous systems and sensing technologies sit at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, at the intersection of physical and digital worlds.  These technologies underpin self-driving cars, smart cities, autonomous drones, and sensor technology capturing data that will revolutionise and enhance industries.

The fast-growing robotics industry is expected to be worth $23 billion by 2025, with our local robotic industry already generating about $12 billion in revenue a year and employing almost 50,000 people.

Australia and its major industries such as mining and agriculture are primed to be transformed by robotics and autonomous system. The opportunity is in using robots and sensors to capture information about complex environments and to automate tasks that would otherwise be completed by humans in high-risk situations and at a greater cost.

Legged robot on an incline in outdoors environment

Ain't no mountain high enough for these legged robots.  ©CSIRO, Navinda Kottege


  • Our Cyber-Physical Systems group is Australia’s largest critical mass of researchers focused on the intersection of the digital and physical worlds.
  • Our Robotics and Autonomous Systems group is a world leader in robotics research with over 38 years of history and 20 world-first discoveries. Our capabilities range from legged robots and 3D mapping through to unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, with the group working with a variety of industries including aerospace, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, biosecurity, and more.
  • We specialise in field robotics, developing autonomous vehicles, and wireless sensor technology for use in manufacturing, agriculture and the environment.
  • Our facilities at the CSIRO Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies offers an ideal location for testing field robots. It includes dedicated mechanical and electronics engineering laboratories, high-end rapid prototyping machines, large sheds for indoor systems testing, an open-air UAV flying area, and rugged and aquatic terrain outdoor testing areas.
  • We led the formation of the Sixth Wave Alliance, a consortium of Australian industry, research and government that promotes and facilitates the adoption and creation of robotics and automation technologies for Australia’s benefit.

Explore our work

DARPA challenge

Data61 is currently competing in the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean Challenge, a competition that explores new approaches to rapidly map, navigate and search underground environments. Our Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group is the only non-US entity in competition to receive up to US$4.5 million in funding across the prestigious three-year challenge. The life-saving technology tested in this competition will help human-first responder in understanding hazardous underground environments. It will also have applications that benefit mining, transport, construction and agriculture sectors.

News on our work in the DARPA challenge.

Machines that see - sensing and mapping the world around us

In 2017, Hovermap enabled the world’s first fully autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight in an underground mine, 600 metres below the surface of Western Australia. Designed by Emesent, an autonomous drone spin-out from Data61, the world-leading technology deploys drones installed in the Hovermap to GPS-denied environments and makes recordings of gas readings, captures videos and images, and creates 3D maps, without the need for a human controller.

The system uses LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, combined with Data61's proprietary Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) solution. Hovermap works in conjunction with a UAV (uncrewed autonomous vehicle), and can map both indoor and outdoor locations without relying on GPS. SLAM is also used in Zebedee, a hand-held version of the same mapping system.

Zebedee, our high-accuracy 3D laser mapping technology, was commercialised and is already being used around the world by 25 multinational organisations. It was recently trialled by the International Atomic Energy Agency in nuclear safeguards inspections.

Location sensing devices have been deployed in our Camazotz system - named after a Mayan bat god, Camazotz is a small, portable device that is used to monitor flying foxes across Australia, helping ecologists understand and predict the spread of disease. The Wireless Ad hoc System for Positioning (WASP) uses similar tags to track vehicles and mine workers relative to reference nodes - assisting with safety and boosting productivity.

[Music plays and logo appears on screen:  Data 61 CSIRO Creating our Data Driven Future,  Animated images of bats fly off screen]

 [Different music plays and text appears on screen:  Introducing Camazotz: A Platform for Sustainable Tracking]

[Image appears on screen of flying foxes in trees in background with person’s hand holding tracking device in foreground] 

Dr Raja Jurdak:  Camazotz was developed as a wearable device for wildlife and animals in general. 

[Image shows Dr Raja Jurdak, Principal Research Scientist, Research Group Leader, Distributed Sensing Systems, CSIRO] 

It allows tracking of their position and their condition as they go around in the landscape. 

[Image shows flying fox hanging in tree] 

Flying foxes are also known as fruit bats. 

[Image changes to show other flying foxes in tree] 

They eat fruits from the environment and they release the seed from the fruits into other parts of the environment. 

[Images flash between Dr Raja Jurdak and flying foxes in trees] 

In that sense they’re important seed dispersal agents which help in pollination across the ecosystem. 

On the other hand flying foxes are known to be carriers of the Hendra Virus which spreads from bats to horses and sometimes to humans. 

It’s important to track where they’re going to better understand them and manage them. 

One thing about bats is that they’re highly mobile and it’s very difficult to track them as they go around the landscape.

[Image shows tracking device being attached to flying fox] 

So you put the technology on the bat, it uses solar panels to get energy from the environment which allows it to last for a very long time. 

The bat flies off and then every time they come back you get detailed data of where they have been and the context around that. 

[Image shows Dr Jurdak installing a base station] 

To retrieve the data we’ve installed base stations across the eastern coast of Australia. 

[Images flash between flying foxes in trees, a base station, a map showing data flow of tracking information] 

Whenever the animals come back to their roosting camp they communicate wirelessly to the base stations and then the data just flows onto to the cloud where we can visualise it on a map and do all sorts of analysis on it. 

[Images flash between Dr Raja Jurdak and flying foxes in trees] 

This technology provides autonomous tracking that can run near perpetually without any human intervention.  Other applications for this technology include logistics, transport, defence, personal safety and even bicycle tracking and hikers in remote places. 

Camazotz is actually the name of a Mayan bat god which is why we chose it for our technology. 

[Image shows Dr Raja Jurdak] 

At Data 61 we’re all about creating Australia’s data driven future.

[Music plays and credits appear on screen followed by logo Data 61 CSIRO Creating our Data Driven Future,]


Introducing Camazotz: A Platform for Sustainable Tracking

Legged robots

We have been researching legged robots since 2012, designing them to go where no other robot or human has gone before, for example a collapsed building or wing cavity of an aircraft. There they can perform a range of applications including emergency rescue operations, rainforest monitoring, dangerous machinery audits, even aeroplane manufacturing or repair.

Zee is a prototype hexapod robot equipped with a streaming camera sensor and a real-time 3D scanning LIDAR. Zee's big sister, Weaver, features five joints per leg and 30 degrees of freedom. Weaver can self-stabilise through 'exteroceptive' sensing - enabling the robot to walk up gradients of 30°, and remain stable on inclines up to 50°.

MaX (Multi-legged autonomous explorer) is even bigger - 2.25m tall when standing up straight. But MaX only weighs 60kg; around five to 20 times lighter than comparable robots. MaX is a research vehicle designed to help our scientists understand how to traverse and explore challenging indoor and outdoor environments. Magnapods are Data61's wall-climbing, electro-magnetic inspection robots, useful in confined space inspection tasks and capable of carrying a 10 kilogram sensor payload. 

The Multi-legged Autonomous explorer demonstrating movement  © CSIRO

Meet our Legged Robot family.

3D Situational Awareness

3D Situational Awareness technology (3DSA) provides an economical and scalable method to obtain real-time 3D situational awareness any object that is or was moving (people, vehicles, materials, etc.) in a designated area, offering the unprecedented opportunity for real-time alerts, analysis, and continual optimisation.

The technology uses, but is not limited to, off-the-shelf security cameras to create a 3D reconstruction of the objects within the focus area. This creates unique challenges, but offers greater value compared to expensive computer vision hardware.

To address these challenges and enable high quality real-time information, 3DSAt utilises all hardware resources (GPU, multi-thread CPU, etc) to distribute the load over a computing cluster. These features are the cornerstone to providing a system that is scalable with built-in redundancy.

Find out more about 3DSA here.

PaintCloud - Colourising 3D representations of the world using LiDAR data

PaintCloud colourises LiDAR data, linking the 3D range information to real-world colours detected by a commercial off the shelf camera (eg, a GoPro) mounted on the handheld, aerial or ground system used to capture the data. This application allows users to easily and inexpensively upgrade their 3D mapping equipment.

PaintCloud can be applied to a range of scenarios including mining, construction, manufacturing, surveying, agriculture and heritage building analysis. For example, a scan of a commercial building under construction by remote access users would tell them the paint colour used in the main office, the tile pattern in the lobby, or if there's been any structural damage following an extreme weather event.

 Find out more about PaintCloud here.

Going it alone - autonomous aerial, underwater and ground vehicles

Creating systems that can navigate and respond without human intervention is a key component in removing the human element from tasks that are dangerous or poorly suited for human control. We've developed several ground vehicles normally used in industrial environments that can operate without human intervention, including the Gator, the load haul dump vehicle and the 20 tonne hot metal carrier.

The Gator system demonstrating autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance.  © CSIRO AutonomousSystemsLab

Our Science Rover enabled the complicated process of satellite calibration - the autonomous vehicle collects measurements at the same time an Earth observation satellite passes overhead - the two datasets are compared, and the satellite is calibrated. Our underwater autonomous vehicle, Starbug, uses underwater sensor networks to locate itself (GPS signals cannot be used underwater), enabling smart underwater data collection for the protecting and tracking of ecosystems.

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