Tag Archives: ECA Group

Launch and Recovery

Naval Group achieved 100% successful recoveries of ECA Group’s Inspector 125 up to and including sea state 5/6 using its Launch and Recovery System (LARS) in MARIN test facilities (Wageningen – The Netherlands).

Naval Group successfully completes testing of its Launch and Recovery System

In Naval Group’s Dutch partner MARIN facilities, Belgian and Dutch officials witnessed the 100% successful launching and recovery of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) using Naval Group Launch and Recovery System (LARS). The tests were conducted up to sea state 5/6 (significant waves height: 4 m/13.1 feet) and with incoming waves from all directions (including leeward of the mothership).

This is a world first and proves that the launch and recovery concept developed by Naval Group is the answer for operating USVs safely in harsh maritime environments. Naval Group demonstrated its expertise and qualifies its system, paving the way to new capabilities for navies needing to operate USV at sea in difficult conditions.

Naval Group mothership has one port and one starboard LARS located slightly aft of midship, close to the ship’s centre of gravity. Each LARS consists of a pivoting A-Frame davit with the USV, weighing up to 18 t, housed in a floating cradle. It allows the simultaneous launch of two USVs with maximal safety. For the Belgian-Dutch Mine CounterMeasure (MCM BE/NL) program, conducted by Belgium Naval Robotics – a Naval Group and ECA Group consortium – they will be used to operate two ECA’s Inspector 125 USV.

Claude Bultot, the Belgian program director said «This success is an important milestone in the program and towards the implementation of a new way to conduct our minehunting activities that will be more efficient and safer for our crews. We are looking forward to the next steps together with the Dutch navy and with our industrial partners from Naval Group and ECA Group».

These tests belong to a series for the MCM BE/NL program. In August 2019, first tank tests were carried out in MARIN facilities with the same scale model of the ship’s hull and propulsion system under calm sea conditions. The first objective was to confirm and fine-tune computational fluid dynamic predictions made for speed and to validate the overall hull drag and propellers efficiency. The second objective was to assess interactions between the hull and propulsion system in order to estimate the total propulsion power of the ship. The next series of tests will take place in February and will assess the cradle handling dynamic aspects.

These tests belong to a series for the MCM BE/NL program. In August 2019, first tank tests were carried out in MARIN facilities with the same scale model of the ship’s hull and propulsion system under calm sea conditions. The first objective was to confirm and fine-tune computational fluid dynamic predictions made for speed and to validate the overall hull drag and propellers efficiency. The second objective was to assess interactions between the hull and propulsion system in order to estimate the total propulsion power of the ship. The next series of tests will take place in February and will assess the cradle handling dynamic aspects.

The contract for twelve minehunters for the Belgian and Dutch navies will run over ten years. After a three-year design period, Belgium Naval & Robotics will move into the production phase for these ships and drone systems, with a first delivery due in 2024. Six ships will be delivered to the Belgian navy and six to the Dutch navy; all are equipped with complete drone systems (toolboxes) in total containing over a hundred underwater, surface and aerial drones fully dedicated to mines countermeasures.

12 minehunters

On May 22, 2019, the Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium, composed of Naval Group and ECA Group, was awarded the contract to supply twelve mine-hunting vessels to the Belgian and Dutch navies. Equipped with around 100 drones, constituting approximately ten drone systems (toolboxes), six ships are destined for the Belgian Navy, while the other six will be delivered to the Dutch Navy.

An artist’s impression of the future minehunters jointly ordered for the Belgian and Dutch navies from France’s Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium at a cost of €2 billion. Each navy will operate six ships with UAVs and UUVs (NG image)

The contract, worth nearly two billion euros, will last ten years. After a three-year design phase, Belgium Naval & Robotics will launch the production phase of the ships and drone systems with a first delivery expected in 2024.

The Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium as well as the Naval Group and ECA Group teams are honored by the confidence of the Belgian and Dutch navies and look forward to this upcoming collaboration.

 

An innovative solution for robotic mine warfare

Belgium Naval & Robotics, thanks to Naval Group’s recognized expertise, offers a 2800-ton militarized ship specialized in mine warfare with military characteristics (acoustic and electromagnetic discretion, shock resistance) perfectly adapted to the operational use targeted by the Belgian and Dutch navies. In particular, this vessel incorporates a launch and recovery system for ECA Group’s Inspector 125 Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV). This innovative, robust and reliable system ensures the safety of operators and maneuvers to protect the ship, the USV and its payloads, while offering a high level of mission availability.

The drone systems on board these innovative vessels are the latest generation of drones developed by ECA Group over the past four years. They are integrated into the C2 MCM Umisoft system connected to the Naval Group’s I4drones system to form the mine-warfare mission system integrated into the ship’s combat system.

The solution includes A18-M Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), T18-M towed sonars and Mine Identification & Destruction Systems (MIDS) composed of SEASCAN and KSTER-C Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). All these drones can be operated autonomously from the USV Inspector 125. The drone system also includes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and influence sweeps.

The program provides for the supply of drone systems that can also be projected. Containerized and equipped with handling and communication systems, mine-hunting drone systems can be airlifted and deployed directly from the coast without a ship.

 

A vast cooperation plan with the Belgian industry

Belgium Naval & Robotics will carry out a significant part of the contract in Belgium, in particular the production of certain equipment for the ship and all naval drones. Ship maintenance will be carried out in Zeebrugge in partnership with Flanders Ship Repair (FSR). The maintenance of naval drones will also be carried out in Zeebrugge according to the needs of the customer, who already has maintenance facilities on his naval base.

The cooperation plan already includes 39 Belgian partners and the notification of the contract will make it possible to finalize the last ones and reach some 50 agreements.

The contract should thus generate an average of 350 jobs per year in the three regions of Belgium.

 

A reference on export markets

The Belgian and Dutch navies being a reference in mine warfare within NATO, the choice of our consortium is a major asset for export.

The tripartite mine hunter program at the time had generated sales of self-propelled PAP robots in several dozen navies, as well as the export of mine-hunting vessels.

This new success in Belgium should generate many export trade benefits in the coming years. The drones for these customers will be produced by ECA Group in Belgium. Similarly, Naval Group expects a significant number of additional sales of mine-hunting vessels in the near future.

Underwater vehicle

On 16th February ECA Group presented its latest mid-size AUV A18-M dedicated to mine counter measures. With its compactness and its unequaled high-quality imagery this new generation underwater drone becomes the reference in the category of autonomous underwater vehicles dedicated to mine hunting. A live demonstration in Toulon area has been conducted in order to show some of the amazing performances of this new maritime drone that is completing ECA Group’s AUV family.

ECA Group unveils its new generation mid-size AUV A18-M for underwater mine warfare
ECA Group unveils its new generation mid-size AUV A18-M for underwater mine warfare

 

AUV A18-M: compact, modular, connected and enduring

A18-M is the new generation of autonomous underwater vehicle developed by ECA Group for efficient mine detection and classification in all water depths up to 300 m/984 feet. Like the A9-M and A27-M, the AUV A18-M is specifically designed to operate in the close vicinity of the smartest mines without triggering them.

«This mid-size AUV is the top trade-off between, size, weight and long endurance. Its payload capacity makes it able to host high performance sonar, such as Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) providing unprecedented detection and classification performances», says Léonie Delacou, AUVs product manager at ECA Group.

More compact than previous generation of MCM AUV, A18-M is easy to deploy even from small naval platforms such as new generation of Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). Thanks to its high stability, and the fact that it is less affected by waves than a surface ship or a towed system, a very high image quality is obtained.

In addition, the AUV A18-M can also adapt its operating depth to the environmental conditions, avoiding blind zones due to sound speed stratification.

Advanced embedded processing allows to process in real time the sonar image raw data and extract a list of contacts which are relayed back to the command center using an advanced communication network, with an Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) acting as gateway. These contacts are then reviewed by sonar operators onboard a mothership or onshore, in order to launch identification and disposal.

 

An unequaled performance gains with a Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) onboard A18-M

More generally, the AUV is able also to detect any kind of hazard such as improvised explosive devices (IED), pollutants, as well as to provide very accurate maps of the seabed which allow the environment to be assessed with high fidelity.

The AUV A18-M integrates the Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) and has very high area coverage rate, of the order of 2 km2/hr which represents between 5 and 10 times more than that of a conventional side-looking sonar on an AUV. This optimal configuration enables to cover very large areas – of the order 20-40 km2 (depending on transit distance) in a fraction of the time of legacy assets, with far superior image quality, and with reduced risk to personnel.

«The performance gain is due to the very high resolution in both range and cross-range offered by a wideband SAS, of the order of 2.5 cm × 3 cm constant up to the edges of the swath, which is unachievable, at any practical range, by any other type of sonar on any type of platform. With the only possible exception of buried or concealed mines, all known mines can be detected and high quality classification cues can be extracted from the highlight and shadow structure», says Doctor Marc Pinto Program Director for Systems of Robots and sonar expert at ECA Group.

 

A18-M joins the UMIS team: simultaneity & interoperability optimize operations at sea

AUV A18-M can be integrated within a larger unmanned system, such as ECA Group’s UMIS (Unmanned Maritime Integrated System) and benefit from common interfaces, communication network as well as data processing system.

«The A18-M joins now the ECA Group MCM robotic ‘team’ which is composed of the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) INSPECTOR MK2, the identification ROV SEASCAN and the expendable mine disposal vehicle, also called minekiller, the K-STER C. All of these robots can work together in order to accomplish tasks simultaneously or for INSPECTOR USV, to be used a communication relay to send gathered a preprocessed information (ATD – Automatic Target Detection) to a command and control system on a mothership or on shore to deploy the identification and disposal vehicle. This is the first comprehensive unmanned maritime system that includes all types of naval robots: USVs, AUVs, ROVs and EMDS», says Daniel Scourzic, UMIS (Unmanned Maritime Integrated Systems) Marketing Manager at ECA Group.

Operating in parallel several unmanned devices, the UMIS system allows the user to have higher efficiency and clearance rate, enabling to achieve typical operations in at least 3 times shorter period compared to conventional systems without any risks for the ship and the operators who stay out of danger zones.

For MCM Missions

ECA Group, within the framework of the Belgian Navy evaluation of Unmanned Maritime Systems, demonstrated the AUV A9-M capability to remotely survey the seabed in search for mines from its CPV POLLUX.

ECA Group demonstrates its AUV A9-M for MCM Missions
ECA Group demonstrates its AUV A9-M for MCM Missions

The ECA Group AUV A9-M, is a 2 meters long, 70 kg underwater vehicle with a capacity of 10 hours of autonomy, which can easily be deployed and operated from rigid hull inflatable boats by two operators, or directly from a non-specialized Navy ship such as CPVs or OPVs.

The trial took place offshore Zeebruge Naval base mid-September 2016, on the Navy determined and well known area; the intent of the test was for the Navy to evaluate the operation of Unmanned MCM systems in comparison to legacy MCM equipment currently in use by the Belgian Navy, as well as test these systems in specific North Sea conditions. The capability of AUV A9-M to navigate in strong currents and high tide environment without degradation of the side scan sonar image quality was one of the objectives of the test of the ECA equipment. The AUV A9-M dived for 5 hours and covered an area of a square kilometer, with 200% coverage of the surveyed area, enabling detection and classification of more than a hundred potential Mine Like Object (MILCO) on the seabed.

Out of these high number of objects detected, ECA Group post processing software Suite including Perspective data analysis and mosaicing tools, enabled to reduce the number of potential MILCO to 14 potential mines. The Belgian Navy had placed prior to the mission a certain number of dummy mines with precise position recording over the entire 2 square nautical miles in order to evaluate the capability of each of the Unmanned systems tested, to actually detect these mines. Results will be analyzed by the CMRE (NATO Center for Maritime Research Experimentation) and final evaluation of AUV A9-M performance communicated to ECA Group for evaluation and further improvement.

The AUV A9-M performed successfully in this environment, proving its navigation reliability and preciseness, seabed picture data recording quality and demonstrating as well that its deployment could be performed remotely from the CPV, from a RHIB itself deployed from the CPV, which enabled the CPV to stay out of the simulated mine search area; hence proving safe offboard remote capability for mine detection and classification.

The remote operation of A9-M was also performed simultaneously with another UUV being operated directly from the CPV for identification missions, which demonstrated in addition, the capability of multiple UUVs to be operated simultaneously from the same ship, which is a world first as well as a line of thought to future MCM operation time savings.

Further trials are planned by the Belgian Navy in spring 2017 where ECA Group will have another opportunity to demonstrate its latest USV, AUV and ROV solutions for MCM operations.

ECA Group Unmanned Mine Counter Measures Systems