Brisbane company secures $US2.45m for high-tech defence drones

Skyborne, a Brisbane-based drone company, has secured $US2.45 million in international capital investment to expand its tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle business into overseas markets.
Innovation Minister Kate Jones said Skyborne received a grant through round two of the government’s Ignite Ideas program to develop their ground-breaking tri-tilt-rotor UAV, Cerberus GL.
“Since the government first partnered with Skyborne in 2017, they’ve created an extra 10 positions in Brisbane and are scaling up to export their technology overseas. This is a great example of a company that’s successfully leveraged government support to attract significant international investment from a private investor based in Abu Dhabi to continue growing its business and get closer to commercialisation,” she said.
The Cerberus GL UAV weighs less than six kilograms and has the capability to provide user aerial support on the battlefield, being classed as the lightest armed tactical UAV of its class, with applications in defence, counter-terrorism and law enforcement.
Skyborne Technologies CEO and Director Dr Michael Creagh said that although the Cerberus GL weighed less than six kilograms it was capable of providing aerial fire support at the squad and platoon level. It could also be used to deploy flash or smoke grenades to assist with counter-terrorism and law enforcement initiatives.
“It has been an amazing two years for Skyborne under Advance Queensland’s Ignite Ideas program, securing a Series A round of investment to expand our engineering team and manufacturing capabilities to deliver a commercialised product to interested parties,” Dr Creagh said.
“Raising capital for the next generation of tactical UAVs is not an easy undertaking and without grant programs like Ignite Ideas, companies like ours face an even greater struggle.”
Skyborne Technologies Chief Business Officer and Director Adrian Dudok said the support from the Queensland Government and recent capital raise has allowed Skyborne to employ seven additional staff and move to a larger commercial premise to support in-house manufacturing.
“With the continued support from the Queensland Government, Skyborne will contribute towards the focus on strengthening Queensland’s defence and manufacturing industry. The export opportunities are endless and we’ve received some serious interest from the US and Middle East.”

Queensland’s circular bioeconomy in the world news

This article appeared in the Biofuels Digest – USA. Photo courtesy of the ABC.

In the last few days, a Queensland oil refinery said it is making biofuel from old tyres and hopes to commercialise it soon to help take care of a huge tyre waste issue in Australia as well as help the country’s fuel security. One tyre equals two litres of fuel and Southern Oil Refineries said it has conducted large-scale pilot tests showing it works. They are moving into demo stage this year and plan on producing 10 to 20 million litres next year.
Southern Oil Refineries general manager Ben Tabulo told ABC News, “[We’ve proven] renewable diesel can work in Australia’s engines and does have the same efficiency on the road. The renewable diesel … has been refined from post-consumer waste, mainly mixed tyre crude oil and refined into 100 per cent drop-in diesel. Our laboratory has shown this diesel is indistinguishable from fossil diesel and will give all the performance that you expect from fossil diesel. Today we’ve put renewable diesel made from tyres, into this engine … it is a normal engine as you would find it trucks and boats, there is nothing special about it.”
Scania, one of the largest producers of heavy vehicle and industrial engines globally, is working with them to approve the fuel for use in their engines. Scania national manager Andre Arm told ABC News, “I think sustainable fuel is the future and no one can deny that there is a push worldwide to have a look at where we’re going with our conventional fuel. It shows Aussie ingenuity, it provides the possibility for fuel security and there’s the environmental benefit as well for sure.”
Government-backed bio-economy
When we talk about innovators, we usually talk about inventors, researchers, the geniuses behind the newest technologies, but a government can also fill that role, as Queensland did just a few months ago. The Queensland government was the first jurisdiction in the world to sign on to below50, the low-carbon emissions initiative, highlighting their commitment to a more sustainable fuel industry for the state. below50 is a global campaign of WBCSD promoting the production and implementation of fuels which produce 50% less CO2 emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels.
Coupled with the biofuel mandate, the move further promotes the state’s biofuels industry, looking to capitalise on a gap in the Asia-Pacific to make Queensland a regional biofuels hub.
As the regional hub host of below50 Australia, QRFA has been driving a low-carbon fuel economy and promoting further uptake of sustainable fuels for the state and Australia.
QRFA managing director Larissa Rose said: “Queensland is in prime position to become a world leader in renewable and biofuels, with its large agriculture sector, its proximity to Asia, and possessing State Government backing.”
Queensland’s potential as a biofuel hub in the Asian Pacific region was also brought up during government meetings in D.C. back in July 2018 between Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick and the U.S. Department of the Navy, as reported in The Digest. The Minister met at the Pentagon with biofuel experts and announced the appointment of Queensland’s new US-based Strategic Biofutures Advisor, Chris Tindal.
The Queensland government and the US Department of the Navy signed a Statement of Cooperation in August 2016 to collaborate on developing alternative fuels. “Since the agreement with the US Navy was signed we have seen positive growth for the industry here, Minister Dick told Manufacturers’ Monthly. “The Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant, Australia’s first advanced pilot biofuels refinery, has been constructed, and work is underway for the production of fuels that meet military requirements.”
Innovating tomorrow, today
Southern Oil Refineries and the government aren’t the only innovators and forward thinkers in Queensland, however. You don’t have to look very far to see R&D work being done to discover the next best thing for our bioeconomy.
Researchers at the University of Queensland supported by the US Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Sugar Research Australia are testing a range of sugarcane varieties to identify which types produce ethanol most effectively and efficiently, as reported in The Digest in March. Their gene-editing of sugarcane for use in renewable energy and bio-plastics could help secure the industry’s future.
Researchers are also collaborating with the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi to investigate processes that break down sugarcane fibre to make bioplastics.
Another study being conducted by researchers at Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Tropical Coprs and Biocommodities is the first to assess biofuels from biomass before turning to bottles and will look at whether PEF from sugarcane can be more economical than PET at scale.
The three-month pilot is looking at the economic viability of turning sugarcane waste, bagasse, into other compounds including plastic bottles. It is being conducted in partnership with Mercurius Australia using a patented process created by the U.S. based parent company Mercurius Biorefining.
Funded by the Queensland Government’s A$150M Jobs and Regional Growth Fund and the aim is to take the bagasse and produce biofuel and bioplastics at scale in a sustainable manner. Dr Rackemann told Beverage Daily that “The science has been proven. The engineering now is trying to prove the economics.”
And speaking of investment…
Putting money where your mouth is
Ok, so the government is on board. Innovative companies are on board. Researchers and scientists are on board. But what about the investors? Looks like they are on board too, given the latest investment action in recent months – heck, even in the last few weeks.
Proposals were recently being accepted for the $5-million, Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund aimed at cultivating technologies that convert waste into useful products and create jobs in the state, as reported in NUU in March. Feedstocks can include food and household wastes, tyres, plastics, fats and oils, and biosolids from sewage treatment facilities.
“The Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund offers grants from $50,000 to $1 million to develop pilot, demonstration or commercial-scale projects that produce bio-based products instead of conventional fossil fuel-based products,” Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick tells Energy Magazine. “The fund will support projects that transform carbon-rich waste from agriculture, food processing, construction and industrial processes into bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. Through this initiative we’ll see innovative waste processing technologies emerge that are scalable and can be deployed statewide, particularly in regional areas of Queensland.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is even promoting Queensland overseas for additional investments with a recent trip to Germany. At an event hosted by Australia’s Ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, the Premier said “Germany and Queensland are entering a new era of innovation-led investor relations, which will be strengthened further by the new Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Australia and my Government’s $650 million Advance Queensland initiative.”
She also met with German representatives at top companies like Bombardier Transport, ShareNow, Siemens Energy, renewables finance group KfW and waste management company Remondis International, a variety of logistics companies during her trip last week. She mentioned that DB Schenker has been involved in bringing sustainable aviation fuel to the Brisbane Airport.
Shell is even investing in Queensland, albeit for an 800-hectare endangered native forest regeneration project.
Bottom line
We see the makings of a positive future for Queensland – between the government’s realization that the bioeconomy is key and worth supporting, the investments in R&D and initiatives to promote biobased businesses, and the already existing entrepreneurship and innovation that is creating new technologies, Queensland is sure to lead by example.

Data61 launches Robotics Innovation Centre in Queensland

CSIRO’s Data61 has announced the opening of its new Robotics Innovation Centre in Queensland, a purpose-built research facility for robotics and autonomous systems, an industry set to be worth $23 billion by 2025.

CSIRO’s Data61 is one of the global leaders in the field, with capabilities ranging from legged robots and 3D mapping through to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).
Fred Pauling, Robotics and Autonomous Systems group leader at CSIRO’s Data61 said the 600-square-metre facility would enhance the group’s world-class research capabilities.
“The new centre expands our research infrastructure to develop highly autonomous robotics systems that can interact safely and seamlessly with humans and other dynamic agents, in challenging indoor and outdoor environments,” Fred said.
“Our robots are already being used to safely inspect and create 3D maps of underground mines, monitor biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest and navigate difficult terrain in emergency situations.”
One project being spearheaded by the centre is the testing of technology to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments as part of a three-year Subterranean Challenge funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The centre houses the biggest motion capture system in the Southern Hemisphere, used to validate data collected by robotics systems. It also features a 13x5m pool for testing aquatic robots, a significant number of field-deployable UAVs and UGVs, legged robots, high-accuracy robot manipulators as well as sensors and telemetry systems.
Adrian Turner, CEO at CSIRO’s Data61, said the centre is a national asset that combines internationally recognised robotics and machine learning research with deep domain expertise from CSIRO providing unique collaboration opportunities for industry, government and academia.
“Robotics and autonomous systems technologies, underpinned by machine learning and artificial intelligence, will unlock new value in all manner of sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and mining,” Mr Turner said.
“By creating a cohesive approach to robotics R&D through closer collaboration, supported by world-class facilities like the Robotics Innovation Centre, we can ensure Australia is well placed to benefit from Industry 4.0 and help to protect and accelerate our nation’s ongoing economic success.”
Data61 led the formation of the Sixth Wave Alliance last year, a network which seeks to integrate key robotics research organisations and industry partners in Australia to enable a higher level of R&D collaboration. Dr Sue Keay was recently appointed to lead Data61’s cyber-physical systems research program, drawing on her experience in developing Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap while at QUT’s Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.
Data61’s robotics infrastructure is open for industry use and collaborative projects. This includes dedicated mechanical and electronics engineering laboratories, several high-end rapid prototyping machines, large sheds for indoors systems testing, an open-air UAV flying area and outdoor testing areas including a forest and creek.

DB Schenker named official logistics provider for SportAccord 2019 in Queensland

SportAccord has welcomed the return of DB Schenker as Official Logistics Provider for the 17th edition of SportAccord taking place from 5 – 10 May 2019 in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
As one of the leading supply chain management and logistics solutions providers worldwide, DB Schenker has been a long-standing Delivery Partner for SportAccord. With dedicated multi-lingual teams located worldwide for the sport event industry, this puts DB Schenker in a strong position when it comes to supporting the needs of delegates.
Commenting on the longevity of the partnership, Nis Hatt, Managing Director, SportAccord said: “We are delighted DB Schenker has come on-board once more as the Official Logistics Provider for SportAccord 2019. Working closely with DB Schenker for many years has contributed to the smooth-running of our event operations.
“To have their loyalty, expertise and know-how is invaluable to our event, and as in previous years, SportAccord delegates will be offered preferential rates for Gold Coast. It goes without saying that it makes sense to use DB Schenker for the Gold Coast edition of SportAccord.”
Commenting on their involvement in global events including the Asian Games 2018, Christian Schultz, SVP Product Management Sports Events at DB Schenker said: “DB Schenker is one of the world’s leading global logistics provider, also when it comes to sports. We are not only part of the biggest sport events worldwide, but we make them possible in the first place.”

Aurizon completes sale of Qld intermodal to Linfox

Aurizon has successfully completed the sale of its Queensland intermodal business to international logistics company Linfox, ensuring the transition for customers and regional communities as well as job security for more than 300 Queensland employees.
The sale completed on 31 January and follows the ACCC’s concerns and following approval of the sale.
The Queensland intermodal business delivers for more than 300 customers across regional Queensland, including supermarket groceries, white goods for retailers, and beer and wine for country hotels and liquor stores.
The company says the sale provides certainty for Aurizon customers and local communities in regional Queensland, ensuring the supply of goods continues with Linfox as the new business owner.
It has also secured continued employment for more than 300 people across Queensland, mostly in regional centres. These employees, including train drivers and freight terminal operators, have ensured services continued for customers throughout the transition.

Linfox can buy Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business: ACCC

The ACCC has acknowledged Aurizon’s sale of its Queensland intermodal business to Linfox.
The ACCC has considered the Linfox proposal, and has decided that a public review of the transaction is not required, as it does not consider the acquisition by Linfox will give rise to a substantial lessening of competition.
“Linfox’s operations in Queensland are relatively limited, and the transaction will mean there will remain two intermodal rail line-haul providers in Queensland, which is a good outcome for rail competition and Queenslanders,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
Aurizon had previously announced that it would shut the Queensland intermodal business if it couldn’t progress the earlier transaction proposal involving Pacific National.
Under the earlier transaction proposal, it planned to sell the rail component of the Queensland intermodal rail business to Pacific National, its only competitor in intermodal rail in Queensland.
“The ACCC did not consider that Aurizon’s shut-down plans were rational given there were other options,” Mr Sims said.
“The sale of the Queensland intermodal business demonstrates why the ACCC must always question claims that businesses will be shut if we don’t approve a merger.”
The ACCC litigation concerning the sale of Acacia Ridge Rail Terminal to Pacific National and Aurizon’s intermodal sale process is continuing.
 

Road and Container Charging Plus Portal and Road Trains

Queensland election “vital” for freight logistics industry: ALC

The Australian Logistics Council has written to party leaders in Queensland ahead of the 25 November state election, asking them to outline their policies on key issues such as corridor protection, congestion, the development of critical freight infrastructure and improved road safety through the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
Letters were sent during the first week of the campaign to the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, Queensland Premier; Tim Nicholls MP, Leader of the Opposition; Steve Dickson MP, One Nation Leader; and Rob Katter, MP of Katter’s Australian Party.
“Queensland plays a vital role in sustaining Australia’s freight logistics network, and with significant growth expected in the state’s freight task over the next decade, it is crucial that Queensland’s political leaders address our industry’s priorities ahead of the state election,” said Ian Murray AM, Chairman, ALC.
He noted that one of the most urgent priorities is preserving a rail corridor that will permit the construction of an alternative dedicated freight rail connection from the Inland Rail route through to the Port of Brisbane.
“This corridor must be preserved now to minimise construction costs for a future rail connection to the port,” he added. “This is essential to guarding against the impact of urban encroachment on this critical piece of freight infrastructure, and deriving the full economic benefits of this significant national project.”
Infrastructure Australia has calculated that up to $66 million could be saved on construction costs of a future freight rail connection to the Port of Brisbane if appropriate corridor protection strategies are put in place, Murray noted.
“ALC has also called on the next Queensland Parliament to provide certainty to the heavy vehicle industry by acting swiftly to pass the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 201,” he said.
“This legislation contains a number of significant measures which ALC believes will improve road safety. It should be passed by the Queensland Parliament as a matter of priority following the state election.”
Murray added that Queensland’s political leaders have also been asked to outline their approach on a range of other policy matters, as highlighted by the ALC in its Queensland Freight Priorities document, released in August 2017.
“These include measures to reduce road congestion, and ensuring the regulation of Queensland’s freight transport infrastructure affords our industry the flexibility it needs to operate 24/7,” Murray said. “This will be essential to meeting a freight task that is rapidly growing due to Queensland’s rising population, growing export markets and the expansion of e-commerce.”

Inland Rail project to impact industrial market: report

The Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project is anticipated to transform the movement of freight around the country and significantly impact industrial property, its users and providers across regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, as found by research carried out by commercial real estate company, Colliers International.
According to the findings of the Colliers Radar: The Melbourne – Brisbane Inland Rail report, the 1,700km Inland Rail project – planned for completion in 2024/25 – is expected to result in potential creation of new intermodal facilities and transport and logistic hubs in key strategic locations; the relocation and/or emergence of inter-capital freight users to key strategic locations; potential uplift in industrial land values for precincts in proximity to the rail route (occupier-led demand); and higher importance placed around the existing Ports of Brisbane and Melbourne.
“From commercial property perspective, the regions which are most likely to benefit from the completion of the Inland Rail are Darling Downs, Acacia Ridge and Bromelton in Queensland, Tottenham in Victoria and Parkes in New South Wales,” said Malcom Tyson, Managing Director – Industrial, Colliers International.
“We are likely to see increased activity along the Inland Rail route from the inter-capital freight users such as Linfox, CEVA Logistics, Toll Holdings, DB Schenker, DHL, Woolworths, Coles, GrainCorp, Bluescope and Visy.”
Tyson noted that the benefits for these users would range from operating cost savings, time savings, improved reliability, improved availability and resilience to incidents.
“In line with this, providers of the intermodal transport and logistic hubs and industrial estates may also emerge to cater for the increased demand and relocation requirements from these users,” he added.
“These providers might fall into service industry sectors such as cold-store warehousing, grain and commodities storage, rail maintenance, container park, food processing facilities, freight handling facilities, distribution centres and inland container storage facilities.”
Matthew Frazer-Ryan, National Director – Industrial, Colliers International, added, “There is compelling evidence pointing towards the positive correlation between new infrastructure projects (i.e. when committed and under construction) and associated uplift in industrial land value in a region.
“The importance of these projects to improve accessibility of freight to the area is also likely to positively impact on the potential rental value of the industrial property in the region.”
Frazer-Ryan added that this has been evidenced Melbourne during the CityLink Tulla Widening project and the beginning of the West Gate Tunnel project – directly impacting transport and logistic operators in the region and leading to an uplift in values.
In Brisbane, he added, this was evident with the completion of the Gateway Upgrade, which saw land values in the Australia TradeCoast rise upon announcement of the project.
In Sydney, the Westlink M7 Motorway construction saw average annual land value growth in the M7 catchment area of around 22 per cent over the three-year period.
“As a result, we would anticipate that as firms begin to look to these middle suburban ring and outer regional areas supported by the completion of the Inland Rail, stronger demand should lead to increasing land values and overall industrial property performance over the long-term,” added Frazer-Ryan.

Mainfreight expands Australian network

Transport and logistics company Mainfreight is developing its regional network in Australia, opening new branches in Bendigo, Victoria; and Toowoomba, Queensland.
“Our commitment to delivering exceptional customer service across all areas of the supply chain has seen our investment in our network and facilities continue to increase,” the company said in a statement.
“Over the last three years we have completed over a dozen significant building projects in Australia’s capital cities both in our domestic and international businesses.
“Further development is now taking place in other major cities – these investments are designed to optimise productivity and increase service levels for our customers.”
Mainfreight has projected that its new facility under construction in Newcastle, New South Wales, is due to be completed by early 2018. The 5,800m2 facility with 4,200m² of raised dock will reportedly allow loaders to have better line-of-sight when loading goods. The site will also include four rear loading docks and 7,200m² hardstand.
Mainfreight has also commented on its site extension in Albury, New South Wales.
“We originally moved into this depot in 2012 and the last five years have seen our team and operations expand so much that we are now increasing the site by over 50 per cent.
“Completed in August 2017, the extension includes 1,000m² of hardstand and provides excellent access for B-doubles and other large vehicles.”

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