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Saab Global

NTB Graduate supporting USV research

3 min read

Naval Technical Bureau engineer, Lachlan Butt is assisting Saab Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Unmanned Surface Vessels in modelling Unmanned Surface Vessels under fault and failure conditions and identifying ways to autonomously recover so as to improve safety.


Lachlan’s knowledge of small craft and seakeeping complements the engineering team’s experience, as he is able to “develop scenarios and identify potential hazards that may be missed without having the prior experience,” he explains.

Although Lachlan is supporting Saab Australia’s unmanned surface vessel research, he is also keen to learn about the Australian defence industry.

“There is a lot of potential work I could contribute to while working on this project and I’m excited to find out what I’ll be working on next, said Lachlan.

Over the next few months Lachlan will work with Dr Derek Rogers and his research team developing the Bonefish unmanned vessel concept for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and protection.

After graduating with a bachelor of mechatronics engineering in 2015, Lachlan joined the Naval Technical Bureau in 2016.

It was the bureau’s well-structured Civilian Engineering Development Program for new engineering employees which led Lachlan to this research work with Saab Australia.

“The program allows me to develop experience through development rotations within the bureau’s specialist technology cells, SMEs, industry and DSTG or CASG to get a broader view of how defence operates,” said Lachlan.

This particular placement is one of six ‘rotations’ to gain experience with industry, or as Lachlan says “allows an individual to have an understanding on what happens on the other side of the fence”.

“My previous rotation was in a group that covered small boats among other things and within the small boats work, I met Dr Rogers and learnt about his USV project.”

“We’ve worked closely with the Naval Technical Bureau and were keen to support Lachlan’s interest in unmanned vehicles feeling that he would bring some good practical experience to complement the team as we work towards on-water trials” said Dr Rogers.

“Before I started working here, I understood the basic principles and methods for achieving autonomy but not how it was implemented,” said Lachlan.

Lachlan said he enjoys working at the Naval Technical Bureau as there is so much to learn and offers a great working environment, though he hopes to someday combine his love of the ocean with his interest in robotics.  


Saab’s Centre of Excellence in Unmanned Surface Vessels is also conducting research into the use of autonomy to improve sea-keeping for the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group. This collaboration with DSTG fits well with other research programs Saab Australia is pursuing with machine vision, and collision detection and avoidance.

“All of these activities are working towards the major exercise Autonomous Warrior to be held in Australia in 2018 and Lachlan’s work further complements this,” said Dr Rogers.