iXblue, along with partner ECA Group, has entered into a contract to provide navigation solutions, underwater positioning systems and obstacle avoidance sonars for the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) replacement program for the Belgian and Royal Netherlands Navies.
The upgraded MCM capabilities will centre around ECA Group’s Toolbox, a set of unmanned minehunting vehicles that includes the company’s INSPECTOR125 USVs (unmanned surface vessels) and A18-M AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles), as well as UMS Skeldar’s SKELDAR V-200 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Other capabilities in the Toolbox include T18 towed sonars for mine detection, as well as SEASCAN and K-STER C MIDS (Mine Identification and Disposal System) for mine identification and neutralization. These robotic systems must perform navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance, vehicle tracking, and underwater communication between vehicles with a high level of performance.
iXblue will provide the following technologies to aid these unmanned systems:
- FLS 150 Forward Looking Sonars – mounted on the USV for obstacle avoidance, as well as real-time mapping to ensure safety of navigation
- Gaps M7 USBL positioning and communication systems – mounted on the USV as well as the MCM mothership to allow tracking of the AUV, SEASCAN, K-STER C and towed sonars, while ensuring underwater communication between the AUV and the USV or the ship
- Phins Compact Series inertial navigation systems (INS) – integrated into the AUVs and towed sonars to provide highly accurate and robust navigation information (position, heading, attitude, speed, heave and depth)
Jean-Louis Sambarino, Program Director at ECA Group, commented: “We are very pleased to partner with iXblue, a leading expert in the field of navigation, subsea positioning and imagery. Our respective domains of expertise are complementary and our teams have already been working efficiently in the past. It is an important partnership for us; I am confident in the realisation of our next steps within the Belgian-Dutch MCM programme.”
Jean-Marc Binois, Commercial Director at iXblue, said: “We would like to thank ECA GROUP for their renewed trust on this major program. ECA GROUP has been using our inertial navigation and acoustic positioning systems for many years now, and for them to select our Forward Looking Sonar for this strategic MCM program is yet another step in our longstanding partnership. We’re very proud to be able to take this partnership between two French technology companies to a new level and are looking forward to our continuous collaboration on future programs.”