Australian robotics systems innovator GaardTech sets its sights on the world
19 January 2022
GaardTech makes sophisticated, live-fire Robotic Training systems for the Australian Army. Its founder Steen Bisgaard is an army veteran. After graduating from Duntroon Royal Military College, Bisgaard undertook two tours in Afghanistan and served 11 years in the Armoured Corp on Abrams Tanks. Based on his experience in Afghanistan and Australia, his company has developed a flatpack robotic system that can be used as a live target and military decoy – and then be recycled.
In this case study Bisgaard explains:
- How Australia and its allies can undertake combat training that is as close to real as possible
- How Austrade has helped his company make significant sales internationally.
Making combat training as real as possible
The idea for GaardTech was forged in Afghanistan. While on active duty there, Bisgaard saw that the gap between training for combat, and actual combat was significant. As a patriot, he wanted the Australian Defence Force to improve its training capabilities before heading into combat.
‘Best practice means fixing the shortfalls in training,’ says Bisgaard. ‘In the field you see the risks of inexperience firsthand. To be the best they can be, soldiers need an experience that is as close as possible to reality. They need the freedom to fail and to experience the pressure and consequence of firing weaponry live.’
That vision drove Bisgaard to invent his first live-fire, full-size target vehicles in 2018. He formed GaardTech in Queensland. His first iteration was a highly detailed metal 2D and 3D tank and armoured fighting vehicle.
With constant development, GaardTech is now on its fifth-generation target vehicle. The company has developed a catalogue of 3D Robotic Enemy Vehicles (15+ enemy vehicle options and counting). These feature thermal signals, and multi-spectrum electronic and radar signatures. This unique product is packaged as a flatpack robot which is set up in under an hour.
Austrade helps GaardTech expand its unique offerings into global markets
Bisgaard explains: ‘No-one else makes a flatpack robot that can be destroyed completely and then recycled. It is quite shocking when you get the full experience of actually destroying these armaments and seeing what an enemy formation really looks like.’
This ability to reach a higher-quality outcome through better training has made both the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and its allies sit up and take notice.
Austrade supported GaardTech’s delegation to the 2020 biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) trade show in London. Austrade’s defence industry advisers also helped GaardTech make valuable contacts in London.
Following the event, GaardTech sold its Robotic Enemy Vehicles worth $1.7 million to the British Army for live fire training in 2021/2022. The first rounds were fired at Castle Martin Range.
GaardTech continues to innovate and grow
Building on this success, GaardTech is growing in the UK market. It has opened GaardTech UK and is growing its sales and delivery team.
With Austrade and Team Defence Australia, GaardTech has secured its first pilot deal with the German Army. The deal covers robots, software and spare parts, which will be tested in 2022 in Germany.
Back on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Bisgaard is ramping up production at its advanced fabrication facility.
‘We aim to produce at least 100 flatpacks a month,’ Bisgaard says. ‘The team wants to ensure it optimises fabrication to be simple as possible with our advanced fabrication workshop and electronics fabrication space. To do this is challenging at scale.’
Moving into intelligence, surveillance and weaponry-style products
GaardTech’s latest development is an autonomous ground robot called the Jaeger-C (translated as the ‘hunter’). It is a lightweight, nimble, fast, mean-looking machine. It can identify tanks and other enemy vehicles with machine vision and sound detection. The robot then autonomously destroys them with its inbuild warhead.
GaardTech has secured its first contract for the Jaeger with the Australian Army.
GaardTech continues to grow as it moves into intelligence, surveillance and weaponry-style products. The team, now 10-strong and growing, is taking the lessons learned from its 50 years of combined Army service and layering it with an innovator/start-up culture. Invention and creation with advanced fabrication methods is its mission.
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