France has launched the Espadon (swordfish) unmanned surface vehicle demonstrator of a Naval surface drone.

The demonstrator, christened Sterenn Du, is a drone-carrying drone developed under a basic research contract awarded in July 2009 by DGA to an industry group comprising DCNS, Thales and ECA.

Espadon is a 17m-long unmanned surface vessel with a displacement capacity of 25t, and will be fitted with a towed array sonar and small submarine drones.

The unmanned surface vehicle will be used to conduct mine-hunting operations, both in the littorals and offshore, without endangering the lives of crewmen.

The vehicle will undergo sea trials in 2011 and 2012 off the western tip of Brittany on behalf of DGA and the French Navy.

The Espadon programme is part of the système de lutte anti-mines futur (SLAMF) programme that allows implementation of the latest developments in naval robotics to improve mine warfare capabilities.