High technology and advanced manufacturing to move Queensland forward

A Hypersonix DART image on screen. The Gold Coast aerospace startup plans to launch the first of three 3m-long DART flight test vehicles in 2024.
A Hypersonix DART image on screen. The Gold Coast aerospace startup plans to launch the first of three 3m-long DART flight test vehicles in 2024.

Queensland is becoming closely associated with high technology and Avalon 2023 will see the state’s separate strands consolidate into a solid high-technology industry sector.

Unsurprisingly, given the pioneering work of the University of Queensland, the state has become a global leader in the science of hypersonic flight.

UQ’s HyShot experimental air vehicle made the world’s first successful hypersonic flight at Woomera in July 2002 at Mach 7, propelled by an air-breathing Supersonic Combustion Ram Jet, or SCRAMJET.

Now the university is home to the Australian Program Office for Advanced Hypersonics (APOAH), while the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) has established its own Australian Hypersonics Research Facility at UQ’s ultra high-speed wind tunnel, or shock tunnel, facility in the suburbs of Brisbane.

This facility is, among other things, home to the joint Australia-US SCIFiRE hypersonics research program in which DSTG is teamed with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The University of Southern Queensland campus in Toowoomba is also home to a Mach 7 shock tunnel which it will use to develop leading edge devices for Gold Coast aerospace startup Hypersonix Pty Limited, which plans to launch the first of three 3m-long DART flight test vehicles in 2024.

The company is 3D printing its hydrogen-fuelled SCRAMJET engines using high-temperature ceramic-matrix composites, says chief technology officer Dr Michael Smart. The 3D printing is essential for incorporating the complex web of cooling channels in the rocket motor.

Helimods founder and CEO Will Shrapnel.
Helimods founder and CEO Will Shrapnel.

Closer to earth, Caloundra-based Helimods uses 3D scanners to create “digital twins” of aircraft, particularly helicopters, to shorten the time needed to design and manufacture special mission payloads.

The company validated this approach in a three-aircraft program for the Victoria Police Air Wing, says CEO Will Shrapnel.

The three AW139 helicopters were extensively modified with sensors and workstations; this has led to work on the RAAF’s new Beechcraft Kingair 360s and on ADF Chinook, Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters.

The state has become a leader in autonomous systems, thanks to Boeing’s MQ-28A Ghost Bat uncrewed fighter, which will be built in Toowoomba, subsidiary InSitu Pacific’s Scan Eagle and Integrator Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs), which are now in service with the ADF, and the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC in Brisbane which was established in 2019.

Former Ghost Bat program director Shane Arnott says that projects like this help create a strong supply chain within Australia, and help recreate lost muscle memory within an industry and government that haven’t developed an all-new combat aircraft for more than 50 years.

Equally important, he says, are the test facilities that support these ventures: Australia has wide, unencumbered spaces on land and at sea and has established multiple test sites for UAV and Uncrewed Surface and Underwater Vehicles (USVs and UUVs).

One is the $16m Queensland Flight Test Range at Cloncurry which has been set up with support from the Queensland Government specifically to provide a controlled environment for industry to test Australia’s growing number of UAVs.

It is run for the state government by test and evaluation specialist QinetiQ and includes a secure hangar and workshop along with a range control centre incorporating radar and other airspace awareness aids.

Queensland is also home to Virgin Australia and much of Boeing Australia, both with major airliner fleets. Gladstone will be the site of a $500m renewable diesel and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) refinery for them.

Built by Oceania Biofuels, this will be Australia’s first commercial SAF refinery. It will use locally sourced waste and feedstock such as tallow, canola and used cooking oil and produce more than 350 million litres of SAF and biodiesel each year.


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