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Video: ECA Group unveils the A18-M mid-size AUV for mine warfare

ECA Group unveiled the latest addition to its range of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV): The A18-M dedicated to mine counter measures. Navy Recognition attended the event and a live demonstration to bring you a video report on this new generation AUV.

The French defense company specialized in unmanned systems claims the A-18M’s compactness and unequaled high-quality imagery makes it the best underwater military drone dedicated to mine warfare on the market.

ECA Group unveils the A18 M mid size AUV for mine warfare 1 ECA Group's A-18M starts at 3.8 meters in length (can be longer depending on payload and modules) and is air transportable

A18-M: compact, modular, connected and enduring
A18-M is an autonomous underwater vehicle developed by ECA Group for large area mine and classification in all water depths up to 300m.
“Some of main advantages of this AUV are its large endurance and payload capacity which make it able to host high performance sonar payloads, such as synthetic aperture sonar providing unprecedented detection and classification performance.” says Léonie Delacou, AUVs product manager at ECA Group.

Due to the high stability of the AUV, which is much less affected by waves than a surface ship or a towed system, very high image quality is obtained.
The AUV can also adapt its operating depth to the environmental conditions, avoiding blind zones due to sound speed stratification.

Advanced on-board processing allows to process the image data to extract a list of contacts which are relayed back to the command center using an advanced communication network, with an unmanned surface vessel acting as gateway. These contacts are then reviewed by expert sonar operators who may task other assets for identification and possibly disposal.

For accurate underwater navigation, A-18M is fitted with an iXBlue Phins III inertial navigation system as well as doppler velocity log and GPS.

Video: A-18M AUV, UMIS and the rest of the ECA Group naval range

SAS precision aboard a mid-size AUV
Due to the very high area coverage rate, of the order of 2km²/hr (between 5 and 10 times that of a classical side-looking sonar which could be mounted on the AUV), very large areas - of the order 20-40km2 depending on transit distance, can be covered in a fraction of the time of legacy assets (an MCM vessel would typically need 12 hours to cover 4km²), with far superior image quality, and with reduced risk to personnel.

The SAS fitted aboard the A-18M is an AQUAPIX MINSAS Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) by Canadian company Kraken Robotics.

“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 2.5cm x 3cm 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 Dr. Marc Pinto Program Director for Systems of Robots and sonar expert at ECA Group.

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

ECA Group unveils the A18 M mid size AUV for mine warfare 2 A-18M has a speed of up to 6 knots and an endurance of up to 24 hours

A18-M joins the UMIS team to 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 and classification ROV SEASCAN MK2 and the mine disposal vehicle, also called minekiller, the K-STER C. All of these robots can work together, accomplish tasks simultaneously and send gathered and automatically preprocessed information (ATD – automatic target detection) to a common command and control system to be processed for further mine hunting decision. This is the first comprehensive unmanned system including USV, AUVs, ROVS and EMDS, and in the near future also the UAV IT180 which is being navalized.“ says Daniel Scourzic, UMIS (Umanned 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, achieved in at least 3 times shorter period compared to the conventional mine hunting operations without any risks for operators who stay out of danger zones.

ECA Group unveils the A18 M mid size AUV for mine warfare 3ECA Group unveils the A18 M mid size AUV for mine warfare 4According to ECA Group, the A-18M’s compactness and unequaled high-quality imagery makes it the best underwater military drone dedicated to mine warfare on the market.