Our history

Robotics and Automation at CSIRO

The current Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group has a long history and many agents that have assisted it in becoming one of the leading robotics research groups in the world. From humble beginnings the group has now set north on developing highly autonomous robots to assist humans.


The early days of robotics and autonomous systems within CSIRO date as far back as 1980, when the Division of Manufacturing Technology was created to focus specifically on manufacturing, a government priority then as it is now.  The new Division inherited people and facilities in Melbourne and Adelaide and overtime it grew to a presence in Sydney and Brisbane.


Peter Cork, Graeme Winstanley and John Roberts.

In late 1994, the division was set to expand into the mining industry through the CRC for Mining Technology and Equipment (forerunner to CRC Mining).  This was seen as using expertise in material science as well as automation.

The team experienced considerable growth during period and worked closely with Exploration and Mining on projects like the LHD automation as well as in collaboration with the University of Sydney.

During this time DMT (Division of Manufacturing and Technology) merged with the Division of Material Science and became CSIRO Manufacturing and Materials Science (CMST), the second division the group had become.


With increased competition for mining funds, the division was merged with the Division of Building and Construction Engineering to become CMIT (division no. 3) which featured some marginal robotics activity.

While working to diversify from its reliance on mining automation – given the realisation that our technologies were much more widely applicable – this period saw the team develop several phases of  dragline automation and branch out into rope shovels.

It was also during this period that the Group first stepped away from the mining industry, with flying robots, Starbug and sensor networks being born.

Division’s merges and re-structuring continue to take place, with a strong push for CSIRO to establish an ICTC division, which came to life in 2003.

At the same time, members of the later called RAT (Robotics and Automation Team), attempted to create the CSIRO Robotics Institute in order to increase the impact of major cross-Divisional activities through a focused strategic investment process. While unsuccessful, the RAT was officially established in late 2004.


Between 2005 and 2015, numerous achievements and awards followed.

In 2016, CSIRO’s Data61 division was created from the integration of CSIRO’s Digital Productivity flagship and the National ICT Australia Ltd (NICTA); which the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group is now part of.

During this period the group had grown to over 100 people including researchers, engineers and students with a vision of developing core technologies for highly autonomous, competent and reliable robotic systems.


In 2021 CSIRO’s Data61 team with the help of Emesent and the Georgia Institute of Technology beat teams from NASA JPL, MIT, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University to claim second place in the DARPA Subt Challenge. This achievement cemented CSIRO’s place as a world leader in robotics put Australia firmly on the map in the area of Robotics Science.