A University of Sydney based researcher leading a global robotics revolution has been named the NSW Scientist of the Year.

Minister for Science and Medical Research Jodi McKay said Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, who leads the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Systems and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at The University of Sydney, has taken the world by storm, developing innovative robots for a wide range of applications.

“The NSW Scientist of the Year Award is our State’s most prestigious science prize, recognising creative, high calibre research that brings benefits to the State’s economy, environment and people,” Ms McKay said.

“Professor Durrant-Whyte is a worthy winner of this year’s award. He is a world-leader in robotics and has helped develop autonomous solutions for a range of industries including mining, marine, military, aeronautics and agriculture.

“He is literally leading a robotics revolution, not only for Australia but the world.

“Professor Durrant-Whyte is an outstanding example of the excellent research being carried out in NSW that positions us as Australia’s leading clever State.”

Ms McKay said Professor Durrant-Whyte wins $55,000 for his achievement.

Professor Durrant-Whyte’s team has spun out a number of companies, most recently Marathon Robotics, which has developed free-ranging robots protected by armour plating to train marksmen. The Marathon Robotics system recently attracted a $57 million contract with the US Marines.

“He has also been involved in the development of underwater robots, flying weed-spraying drones and massive mining automation systems,” Ms McKay said.

Professor Durrant-Whyte said he was proud to receive the NSW Scientist of the Year award and that NSW and Australia was the ideal place to develop robotics.

“Australia is the perfect place to develop and apply robotics. Robotics works for things that are big and expensive and things you don’t want to put people into – from mining to underwater exploration.

“Autonomous systems represent the next great step in the fusion of machines, computing, sensing, and software to create intelligent systems capable of interacting with the complexities of the real world.” Professor Durrant-Whyte said the rise of robots was set to have a huge impact on all areas of society and especially in Australia.

“It’s an exciting field and I liken it to the growth of the computer industry.

“Comparatively, we are currently developing the robotics equivalent of the mainframe computer of the 1960s. But one day, just like computers, there will be robots in every home.”

For more information on the work of Professor Durrant-Whyte and the University of Sydney- based Australian Centre for Field Robotics go to www.acfr.usyd.edu.au.

For details about the NSW Scientist of the Year Award, including a full list of 2010 finalists and category winners go to www.osmr.nsw.gov.au