Exail, an ECA Group and iXblue group, has signed a new contract to provide an A18D autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for the French Navy.

The contract has been signed with the French Defence Procurement Agency (Direction générale de l’armement – DGA).

Valued at approximately $3.72m (€3.5m), the contract has been awarded as part of the French Navy’s seabed control strategy, introduced in February last year.

The objective of this strategy is to observe and monitor the deep ocean activities to safeguard national interests.

The latest contract has been awarded after the successful operational assessment and examination of the A18D AUV by the French Navy and the Naval Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (SHOM) last year.

Under the new deal, Exail will rent its AUV to the French Navy for around two years to conduct different operations in deep seabed, with a depth of up to 3,000m.

The company will also provide associated academic and operational training to around 12 French Navy sailors.

This theoretical/operational training is being provided to ensure that the naval crew is aware of the deployment, operation and recovery techniques of the AUV. It will also train the crews on how to process or post-process the data obtained by AUV.

Exail CEO Dominique Giannoni said: “We are proud to participate in this seabed programme and to put all of Exail’s technology and know-how of our teams at service of France’s ambitions in this area of sovereignty.”

Designed to perform deep water mapping, sonar imaging and high-resolution inspections, the A18D AUV is capable of operating for 24 hours continuously, with a speed of 6kt.

The Navy will use it for detecting and identifying deep-sea objects, as well as charting forms and characterising the nature of the seabed.