On 13 January 2022, Belgium Naval & Robotics and ECA Group consortium demonstrated a fully remotely operated Unmanned Service Vehicle used to launch and recover surface drones.
The industrial tests carried out of Toulon mobilised up to 30 consortium employees to test this innovative technical solution up to sea state 4/5, 40 knots of wind by day and night. The test results took place in the presence of the Royal Belgian and Dutch navies as part of the Replacement Mine Counter Measure (rMCM) program.
Eric Perrot, director of the rMCM program for Naval Group, said the performance was a result of the collaboration between multiple partners – first and foremost ECA group. “We have great faith in this technology, and we thank the Belgian and Dutch navies for their confidence in us,” Perrot said.
The tests brought together four subsystems designed by the consortium and allowed them to be tested in real conditions on the VN Rebel, a specially chartered vessel.
The Launch and Recovery System – automated arms that equip the two sides of the ship – allow the launch and recovery of the floating dock that hosts the drones. The floating dock, a cradle for hosting surface drones, allowed maintenance and reconfiguration of the USV without having to move it.
The security system allowed drones to be locked onto the floating dock, protecting personnel from the risks inherent in handling. The drone, ECA Group’s USV INSPECTOR 125, allowed the employment and recovery of an A-18 underwater drone, a T-18 towed sonar, a SEASCAN underwater drone and a K-STER C underwater drone.
The Belgium Naval & Robotics Solution – detecting, identifying, and neutralising mines without human intervention – will allow personnel to rely on drones for mine clearing operations and maintain a safe distance.
The first dedicated drone carriers in naval history, equipped to operate a fully robotic drone system for mine detection, classification, and neutralisation, will be delivered between 2024 to 2030 to Zeebrugge, Belgium.
Dominique Giannoni, CEO of ECA Group, said that the demonstration showed the relevance of ECA Group’s drone employment and recovery solution.
“It is a constant dialogue between the Naval Group and ECA Group teams that has allowed this great result of integration of our systems,” Giannoni said. “We are fully committed to the success of this highly innovative program.”
The twelve ships (MCMPF) ordered by the Belgian and Dutch navies will be equipped with twenty-four of this solution. The first of class rMCM was laid down by NavalGroup in Concarneau on 30 of November 2021.
The solution is to be finalised with the system production launched in the second semester of 2022.