Space & Defence


Next-generation technologies including sensors, autonomous machines, augmented and virtual reality, big data and AI ­­– as well as wearable and implantable devices – are reshaping the defence landscape in space, on land and in the ocean.

However, to unlock the full potential of these technologies we need to ensure that they integrate seamlessly with human teams in often high-pressure environments.

This is the MARCS Institute advantage. We bring together experts across engineering, psychology, biology and neuroscience to push the boundaries of defence capability by:

  • Creating and deploying technology inspired by the human brain to enable enhanced decision-making and integration with autonomous systems.
  • Combining our knowledge of the human brain, information processing and sensors to develop technology that improves cognitive function for perception and decision-making in defence personnel.
  • Understanding human-machine relationships to develop robust systems that enable trust in autonomous systems in high-pressure and dynamic environments.
  • Developing point-of-capture auditory and visual sensors that can be deployed in dynamic environments and used to enhance operations and decision-making.
  • Designing small- and large-scale information interfaces to ensure information is being optimally filtered and displayed to improve decision-making.

Our research is shaped by deep, global collaborations with industry and government agencies, resulting in enhanced capability across surveillance and monitoring, agile command and control centres, battle-ready platforms and improved human performance and decision-making.

Our unique approach

We combine our deep understanding of the human brain and human behaviour with systems design and engineering to deliver solutions that bring technology, operations and people in the field closer together. This reduces the complexity of information capture and processing in environments that can change abruptly, where every second counts.

And we’ve had global impact. As pioneers of neuromorphic systems, where technology is modelled after biological systems, our work has resulted in a new generation of sensors that are improving autonomous systems and transforming tracking, rapid data capture and analysis.

Whether short, medium or long term, our interdisciplinary teams co-design projects with industry partners, which ensures the research is focused squarely on our partner’s challenges. World-class facilities also enable us to rapidly test and adapt technology, reducing the time it takes to transfer out of the lab and into the field.

Our fields of interest

  • Neuromorphic sensors and spiking neural networks: next-generation point-of-capture auditory and visual sensors, and data-processing capability,to enablerapid decision-making in complex auditory and visual environments.
  • Human brain function: understanding and optimising how the human brain responds to dynamic environments such as combat zones and operation centres.
  • Information processing and decision-making: understanding how to optimise information capture and presentation to enhance information processing and decision-making.
  • Interaction with environment and technology: exploring and improving how humans and machines interact in high-pressure environments such as during multi-faceted defence operations.
  • Sensing and perception: improving our understanding and capability for sensing and perception in land, sea and space both for machines and humans.
  • Communication and language: improving communication between humans and machines to optimise information processing, decision-making and team performance in complex environments.

Impact built on collaboration

We are working with global organisations and government agencies to enhance sovereign capability. Some of our projects include:

  • Defence Science and Technology group grants across land, air and navy
  • Event-based sensors for Space Situational Awareness:
    The International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems (ICNS) is developing novel approaches to space situational awareness using neuromorphic vision sensors that enable high-speed, low-power, and persistant space monitoring. This world-leading technology for tracking space junk and satellites is funded by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and has led to the development of the Astrosite Network of mobile neuromorphic telescope observatories.
  • Event-based sensors for Adaptive Optics:
    ICNS, in collaboration with UNSW Canberra, is exploring the use of neuromorphic vision sensors for novel adaptive optics systems for both space-based and underwater imaging. By leveraging the high dynamic range and the high-speed asynchronous output of neuromorphic sensors, this research focuses on building high-speed and low-cost wavefront sensors for use on telescope systems. This research was funded by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).
  • United States Office of Naval Research to create event-based sensors in the water environment:
  • ICNS, is exploring the use of neuromorphic sensors in the underwater environemnt to assess the poential to dramatically improve the sensing capabilities through the water medium. Exploring both auditory and visual sensing solutions, ICNS is exploring the ability to sense along the ocean floor, within the water volume, and through the air/water interface.

  • ICNS received funding from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to build two Astrosite mobile space observatories that use our neuromorphic technology to track satellites and space-junk. Each Astrosite is valued at $350k. In contrast, the Neuromorphic event based sensors present a much more efficient and low power alternative, as targets in orbit can now be detected and tracked regardless of background brightness.

Our research in action

Across MARCS, we are engaged with hundreds of research projects at any given time. MARCS research projects aim to have a profound impact in their particular field and often involve collaboration with local and international researchers. You can explore our current projects in Space & Defence here.