Researcher on riverbank looking at CSIRO's miniature submarine in the water.

CSIRO’s award-winning Starbug miniature autonomous submarine.

Autonomous systems

CSIRO is developing autonomous technologies to monitor the environment and infrastructure and improve safety and operating efficiency in the mining, manufacturing and agricultural industries.

  • 20 July 2011 | Updated 11 June 2014

We are developing autonomous technologies to enable machines and devices to observe the world in real-time.


Our research focuses on:

  • field and service robotics for variable, challenging environments.
    Automated robots can either assist human operators or replace humans in tasks that are:
    • repetitive
    • difficult
    • unpleasant
    • hazardous.
  • real-time computer vision systems for analysing human expressions and behaviour in real world situations
    • automated face and body tracking technology without the need for sensor suits is of particular interest to the medical, entertainment, communications and robotics communities.
  • pervasive computing technologies, such as sensor networks, that are revolutionising the collection of data.
    Our systems have features including
    • high quality, high resolution data
    • low cost harware
    • power efficient hardware and software
    • long range wireless communications.


Our research spans field robotics, pervasive computing and computer vision.

Our research is applied in areas such as:

  • mining – assisted or fully autonomous control of large scale surface and underground mining equipment including remote operation
  • materials handling – autonomous vehicles and associated equipment that navigate around industrial sites moving difficult loads
  • environmental monitoring – large scale wireless sensor networks independently collecting data in challenging environments
  • health – self-learning computer vision technology to recognise expressions and posture and aid in the diagnosis of medical conditions
  • agriculture – using sensor network technology to manage the movement of livestock and protect environmentally sensitive areas
  • infrastructure inspection – autonomous airborne or underwater vehicles for inspection of powerlines, cooling towers, pipelines, bridges and pylons.

Track record

Our major achievements include:

  • demonstrating the world’s largest robot − an autonomous dragline system for open-cut mining
  • co-founding the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) Outback Challenge with Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland government
  • establishing an integrated network of land- and water-based sensors monitoring  Brisbane’s major water supply
  • deploying a very large scale sensor network − 175 microclimate sensors and 10 multimedia nodes − for biodiversity management
  • mapping 17 km of tunnels in full 3D in two hours
  • Starbug, our autonomous miniature submarine, winning the 2006 Queensland Engineering Excellence Award for Innovation
  • licensing our underground navigation technology to the Caterpillar group for the automation of load haul dump vehicles.

Read about the technical details of the work done in our Autonomous Systems Laboratory [external link].