AFOSR – DST Australia Autonomy Initiative
The US Air Force Asian Office of Aerospace Research & Development (AOARD) and Defence Science and Technology (DST) and announce the solicitation for a two-year program which is co-funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and DST.
The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and Defence Science and Technology (DST) have a collective interest in the development of trusted autonomous systems. The previous phase of this program supported seven joint US-AUS basic research programs. Building on substantial investment of the US and Australia in autonomy, this program produced premier collaborative research activities between the two countries. In order to continue to provide opportunities for scientists and engineers in both countries to collaborate in these emerging technology areas and to leverage their intellectual resources, AFOSR and DST are offering a following research initiative dedicated to the area of Trusted Autonomous Systems.
Applications must have two co-PIs: one from a US Institution or DoD Laboratory and one from a Australian academic institution or DST laboratory. Teams are invited to submit a joint proposal. Only one application per PI (i.e. a PI may not be on more than one proposal, even on different teams). Identical proposal narratives should be submitted to both AFSOR and DST.
Each team consisting of an Australian PI and a US PI will be asked to submit a white paper with a narrative of no more than 2 pages. White papers should describe the proposed effort to be undertaken. Based on the evaluation of these white papers, up to 8 finalist teams will be invited to submit full proposals.
The proposals will be reviewed by both AFOSR and DST. It is expected that basic-research efforts funded under this program will: 1) publish their results in the open literature, 2) complement existing basic and applied research efforts at AFRL and DST, and 2) foster greater scientific collaboration between Australia and the US.
The proposed work is expected to address emerging research issue of trusted autonomous platforms. Autonomous platforms where autonomous platforms are characterized as "intelligence-based, responds in unanticipated situations, not pre-programmed, self-governing with self-directed behaviors, and capable of acting as proxy for human decision making" (AFRL Autonomy S&T Strategy.
The AFRL Autonomy vision is:
"Intelligent machines seamlessly integrated with humans…maximizing mission performance in complex and contested environments." (https://defenseinnovationmarketplace.dtic.mil/communities-of-interest/autonomy/)
DST’s Autonomy vision is:
"The fusion of machines, computing, sensing and software to create intelligent systems capable of interacting with the complexities of the real world."
Autonomy is seen as a key enabler for many of DST’s STaRshots. The STaR Shots (Science, Technology and Research Shots), are challenging, inspirational and aspirational mission-directed programs to focus strategic research and drive development of future leap-ahead Defence capabilities. Further information on the STaRshot program is available here:
Key scientific focus areas are:
(A) Verification and Validation of Autonomous Systems. Research questions should address "how do we prove an autonomous system or an autonomous swarm will do what you want it to do?" and "how do you prove such systems will not do what you do not want it to do?" These question simplicitly include the need for explainability.
(B) Human-Machine Teaming. Future R&D must further integrate artificial intelligence & human cognitive models, advance human-agent feedback loops and intent inferencing, optimize trust/transparency, and advance sensor/data decision models. System design will need to address the human operator as part of the system, in various roles.
Selection will be based upon:
The proposals will be reviewed by both DST and AFOSR. It is expected that efforts funded under this program will complement existing basic research efforts and would foster greater scientific collaboration between the US and Australia. Specific areas of interest can be also found in the latest version of the AFOSR Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) at https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=314753
White Paper: Each team consisting of Australian PI and US PI will be asked to submit a joint white paper with a narrative of no more than 2 pages. White papers should be submitted via email the following websites of DST and AFOSR Points of Contact. The white papers must include:
All submitted white papers will be reviewed independently by DST and AFOSR representatives. Up to 8 mutually agreed teams will be invited to submit full proposals. Based on the evaluation of these proposals up to 3 teams will be funded. The selection of the research teams qualified to submit full proposals will be announced.
Full Proposal: Any teams may still submit a full proposal even if its white paper was not specifically requested to submit a full proposal or if no white paper was submitted. Full proposal will include a narrative of no more than 8 pages to compete for the final selection, following the whitepaper requirements with the following requirements:
In addition, each team member may need to submit supplemental documents, forms, and budget justification required by the US or DST for which the team member will be seeking funding. Identical Joint Proposal narratives and appendices with all funding-agency specific associated supplemental documents should be submitted to both the following websites of AFOSR and DST.
Evaluation: The evaluation of full proposals will be made by AFOSR and DST representatives. Applicants funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), are subject to the terms and conditions described in the current AFOSR Broad Agency Announcement. Evaluation criteria and review are subject to the terms and conditions described in the current AFOSR Broad Agency Announcement
Annual Review: When awarded, the Australian and US PI's shall submit a joint annual report to AFSOR and DST. Both PI's are expected to attend these reviews and to make joint oral presentations.
Working Level POCs: All communication for this program should be channeled through: