Kate Devitt

Chief Scientist of Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS)
Trusted Autonomous Systems

Kate Devitt


I work to make effective and trustworthy robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (RAS-AI) for civilian and military contexts of use. This means understanding the components needed to make smart robots useful such as multi-model perception, path planning algorithms, signalling, communications and effectors. But also making human-machine teams that are ethical, lawful, safe and assured. My work is participatory, practical and evidence based. I work with diverse stakeholders from industry, government, Defence and the research community help create tools and resources to build, test, deploy and adapt RAS-AI to achieve a deployable state and trusted adoption. A great example of this work is the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Gateway (RAS-Gateway) a set of free, public digital tools and resource hub to help robot makers and users connect more efficiently to the regulator and Queensland autonomous systems testing ranges. 


My work with Trusted Autonomous Systems is based on Brisbane promotes Queensland industry, universities, indigenous enterprise and regional economies to build the autonomous systems industry. Some examples:
-       I have helped enabled $1.35M Indigenous-led and co-led AI projects in far north Queensland. KJR and partners (Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, Athena AI, Emesent, Flyfreely, MaxusAI, World of Drones Education Pty Ltd, and Griffith University) are developing a secure multi-platform human-machine teaming capability in Queensland through using semi-autonomous drones for data capture and machine learning for image classification to identify and protect Western Yalanji rock art. Pama Language Centre (PLC) and UQ are working with language communities in Cape York; designing, developing and evaluating new language technologies including a digital asset manager for language resources, tools to support sharing of augmented reality assets, and workshops to build capacity and resource creation. This work extends the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) Transcription Acceleration Project (TAP) application of AI ‘transfer learning’ for speech recognition, aimed at reducing the training data and time needed to develop novel speech recognition systems. Revolution Aerospace is working with QUT to build next generation electronic warfare hardware that can be fitted to drones to help them navigate a hostile battle space in Australia’s defence. https://tasdcrc.com.au/advance-queensland-funds-new-trusted-autonomous-systems-projects/ 
-       I have helped Queensland businesses Skyborne Technologies and Cyborg Dynamics Engineering build an ethical and legal framework for the Athena AI product that has given them a business advantage including selling internationally. See Roberson, T, Bornstein, S, Liivoja, R, Ng, S, Scholz, J, Devitt, K(2022) A method for ethical AI in defence: A case study on developing trustworthy autonomous systems, Journal of Responsible Technology, Volume 11, 2022, 100036, ISSN 2666-6596, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrt.2022.100036
-       I help promote Queensland autonomous systems testing ranges such as the Queensland Flight Test Range Cloncurry (managed by QinetiQ), Reefworks at the Australian Institute for Maritime Science (AIMS) Townsville and MILTECS sites by driving autonomous systems test and evaluation and streamlined regulatory processes through RAS-Gateway. Visitors from across Australia and across the world can visit Queensland, find out the regulatory requirements for their autonomous vessel, vehicle or aircraft and know how to ask the right questions for the regulator using the autonomous systems body of knowledge and get themselves and their team to a Queensland test range using RAS-Gateway.
-       I built the Autonomous Systems Demonstration Canvas to help Queensland industry communicate the capacities of their autonomous systems when they demonstrate them at a Queensland Test Range. By using the Canvas, everyone involved in a technology demonstration can be sure that they are telling a compelling story of the capacities of their technology and get the right levels of investment, buy-in and ‘wow’ factor they were hoping for. The Canvas was used at the Maritime Showcase at Reefworks AIMS in Townsville in September 2022 where autonomous vessels completed an obstacle course, avoided collisions, and reacted to low visibility.  One demonstrated surveying a marina, avoiding moored yachts. Choreographed demonstrations help communicate the excitement and potential for autonomous systems in Queensland, in Australia and globally. 

Role Model

I am a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM because I show how taking an unusual path, with patience, passion and dedication, can lead to a rewarding and impactful career as well as a family. I am a role model for girls who don’t necessarily feel like girls on the inside (whether they identify as a ‘tomboy’ or ‘nonbinary’. I am a role-model for girls who like science and the humanities and don’t want to just pick one or the other. I am a role model for neurodiverse girls who struggle to find a comfortable place sometimes and need to hide under the table or lock the bathroom door just to find their centre. I am a role model for reducing the stigma of mental illness and mental difference. Girls might like that I have always been interested in science, humanities, being in ‘masculine’ roles, but also being a mum and allowing myself to explore and try new things. My fearless attitude and ‘don’t give up spirit’ has opened up opportunities to be innovative and connected with people. Doing things differently, but with passion has also made me uniquely capable when building AI systems to help humans. At university as an undergraduate I studied the ‘history and philosophy of science’ and I also studied psychology. Learning statistics was a great way to use my mathematical and systems brain to consider how we learn about human thought and behaviour. My cross-disciplinary honours thesis ‘the psychology of Simpson’s Paradox’ didn’t fit neatly into either philosophy or psychology, but my out-of-the-box thinking did get me a scholarship to do a philosophy PhD in the United States. So, my life lets girls know that it is okay to not fit the shape of things the way they are. They are going to make new shapes and be the leaders of the future. I made all kinds of different career choices such as working in QUT Library for 8yrs learning a whole new range of skills in information systems, information science and the relationship between people and the information they seek. I started my own environmental podcast ‘A Climate Affair’ in 2007 that became a top ten news podcast in Australia with my critical environmental reporting. I am also an entrepreneur and CEO of my own Start Up BetterBeliefs, a participatory stakeholder engagement platform powered by Bayesian statistics.


I am a ‘Tech Girls are Superheroes’, superhero, writing the QUT story in Tech Girls are Superheroes Volume 2, in 2016. I was a Tech Girls Mentor for ‘Paws Out’ a WestEnd Primary school tech girls team for two years. I went with the Tech Girls to visit Google in Sydney. I spoke to Qld STEM high school students on International Woman’s Day 2023 breakfast. I am a prolific public speaker across a huge range of organisations including STEM Qld high school teachers and University of the Third Age. I’ve spoken to Engineers Australia, United Nations Institute of Disarmament Research, Australian Defence Science Technology and Research Summit, EPE Miltecs CSIRO Pullenvale, Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution Republic of Korea, QUT Centre for Data Science, and AAAI Spring Symposium Stanford University.

Some example presentations:
Devitt, S.K. (2023). ‘AI to reduce harm to civilians and Ease the effects of war’ panel. CNA. REAIM Summit, The Hague 15-16 Feb 2023.
Devitt, S.K. (2023). ‘ELSA Labs: Applyin participatory methods to design complex military technologies.ELSA Lab Defence. REAIM Summit, The Hague 15-16 Feb 2023.
Devitt, S.K. (2023). ‘How to operationalise responsible AI in the military domain’. UNIDIR. REAIM Summit, The Hague, 15-16 Feb 2023.
Devitt, S.K. (2023). Pursuing Trustworthy AI Governance in Defence Innovation (closed session). S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies Nanyang Technological University. REAIM Summit, The Hague, 15-16 Feb 2023.
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Expert Workshop on the Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dutch Ministry of Defence (MOD) & Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 31 Oct – 1 Nov 2022. 
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Emerging technologies in the area of LAWS: Legal and ethical implications of algorithmic bias. UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) side event to CCW GGE on LAWS Webinar on Algorithmic bias, 26 Jul 2022
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Gaps in AI for Defence. Australian Defence Science Technology and Research Summit. Defence, Science & Technology Group.
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Autonomous Systems Demonstration Canvas. EPE MILTECS, CSIRO Pullenvale.
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Wargaming Responsibility in Future Military Operations. Defence Human Sciences Symposium (DHSS), 28-29 Nov 2022.
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Advance Control Directives: A Method to Enable Moral and Legal Responsibility for Autonomous Weapons Systems. Land Forces. Brisbane, 6 Oct 2022
Devitt, S.K. (2022). Australia’s approach to AI Governance for Defence. Putting AI in the Critical Loop: Assured Trust and Autonomy in Human-Machine Teams. AAAI Spring Symposium. Stanford University.
Devitt, S.K. (2021). Australia’s approach to AI Governance for Defence. Global Policy Conference on AI & Digital Transformation from the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Republic of Korea.
Devitt, S.K. (2021). The Ethics of AI in Defence. Engineers Australia https://portal.engineersaustralia.org.au/event/2021/05/ethics-ai-defence-36781 
Devitt, S.K. (2021). ‘Australia’s AI Governance Frameworks & Pragmatic Tools Manage Ethical Risk’ Responsible Data Science Symposium. QUT Centre for Data Science. https://youtu.be/VvlaUFxd5TA 


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