Wilson Gray of Claremorris, Co. Mayo, linked to secretive military base hosting first autonomous AI drone flight in 2004

The Gray family moved to Claremorris around 1780. One of the most notable members of the family is Sir John Gray. John Gray was responsible for the Vartry scheme which provides the water supply for the city of Dublin.

Less well known is John's brother Wilson Gray. Wilson traveled to Australia and New Zealand.

In Claremorris, there is a plaque commemorating John Gray. In O'Connell Street, Dublin's main thoroughfare, there is a statue. In Australia, Wilson Gray is commemorated in the name of the secretive military facility at Graytown.

The National Library of Australia has an article about Wilson Gray's popularity in the area during the gold rush. This was well before the military took over the site. He subsequently became a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly and then moved to New Zealand to take up a role as a judge.

Reminiscences of Graytown (Spring Creek)
[By G.W.R.]
No I.
Graytown, about eighteen miles to the east of Heathcote, was named after Mr Wilson Gray (afterwards Judge Gray, in New Zealand), who represented the district (then Rodney, now Waranga) in the Legislative Assembly of the second and third parliaments of Victoria from the 12th January, 1860, the date he was sworn in, and he resigned during a recess in 1862. Mr Gray was a greatly and widely respected member of parliament. There is also the parish of Graytown. ...

Graytown doesn't really exist as a town any more. It is a military facility used for training and the occasional top-secret tests of top-secret gadgets. In other words, when the Americans, British and Australians get together for these experiments, they are gathered in a place named after an Irish immigrant from Co. Mayo. We can think of it as Area 51-lite, downunder.

Graytown, classified

During World War II, Graytown was home to German PoWs captured by Australian forces. In a story reciprocating the Great Escape of American PoWs in Germany, a good sized bunch of Germans in Graytown briefly found their freedom during stormy weather before being recaptured.

Graytown, German PoWs

Today, the Pentagon web site is hosting an edition of Australian Defence Science from 2004 claiming that the "world first" autonomous drone trial was conducted at Graytown.

The exact date of the trial is not specified. I guess that details like that are classified.

The journal article suggests they used artificial intelligence software called JACK to guide the drone. ChatGPT didn't exist back then.

A world-first in autonomous, Intelligent Agent-controlled flight was achieved recently by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The successful first flight, undertaken by DSTO and Agent Oriented Software, convincingly demonstrated both in-flight Intelligent Agent control of the aircraft and fully autonomous mission selection capabilities.

The flight test (involving an Avatar UAV made by Codarra Advanced Systems) was conducted in restricted airspace at the Australian Army’s Graytown Range about 150 km north of Melbourne.

The Avatar was guided by a JACK intelligent software agent that directed the aircraft’s autopilot during the course of the mission. The JACK Intelligent Agent software utilised was developed and marketed by Agent Oriented Software Pty Ltd.

Graytown, drones

Around the time Australia committed to the AUKUS submarine contract, the Fairfax-affiliated newspapers assembled five experts in defence strategy, their independent defence panel, to write an extensive report, Red Alert, concluding among other things that Australia's military never had any interest in AI, despite the fact an article on the Pentagon web site tells us that Australia hosted the "world first" autonomous drone flight.

“The ADF has been extraordinarily resistant to autonomous systems,” says Ryan, pointing to a deep-seated bias in favour of submarines, frigates, bombers and helicopters. “We’re a long way behind the rest of the world and there are lots of Australian companies that can do this.”

As far as I can tell, four out of the five students who worked on the JACK software as early as 1999 have left Australia.

Wilson Gray was a barrister and judge. If he knew that Graytown, his namesake, was being used to test machines for extrajudicial killing, he would most surely turn in his grave.

Another Claremorris native is Conor Maguire who became a senior judge and Irish Red Cross chairman. Maguire would also turn in his grave at the thought of technology used for extrajudicial killing.

Another article in the NLA tells us about his departure.

A public soiree to Mr Wilson Gray, M.L.A., upon the occasion of his departure from the colony for New Zealand, took place on Wednesday evening at the Trades Hall, Lygon street. There was a numerous attendance, upwards of two hundred persons being present. The hall was handsomely decorated with flags and the banners of the various trade unions, flowers, shrubs, ...

It is an interesting coincidence. 1999 was the year I was an officer of the National Union of Students, in the same building, Trades Hall, where Wilson Gray had his sending-off.

In other news, Australia's ambassador to Ireland is Gary Gray. I can neither confirm nor deny any relation between Ambassador Gray and the Gray family of Claremorris.

Please read more about my candidacy for the European Parliament. As we enter the era where artificial intelligence is taking a greater role in our lives, we need representatives who understand the evolution of this technology.