The French Navy's A9-M autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will be equipped with new long-range communication capabilities from ECA Group.
ECA will update six A9-M AUVs, which were delivered to the French Navy mine disposal divers (GPD) of Toulon and Brest in 2013.
The new function of the long-range communication will facilitate the exchange of messages from the vehicle, even with no line of sight, making it possible to send basic order and mission modifications, such as a return to the launch point.
The vehicle can be deployed in any operational theatre, from different platforms such as a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) larger vessel, or even from the land to perform both organic underwater mine warfare, and conventional underwater mine warfare.
It is fitted with a high-resolution side scan sonar and accurate an inertial navigation system.
The A9-M's acoustic and magnetic signatures have been minimised in order not to trigger any underwater mines while performing the mine warfare survey.
ECA's 200cm-long AUV has an endurance of up to 20 hours and it can travel at a maximum speed of up to 5k.
It also has a wide range of safety features, such as an emergency pinger, a strobe light, fault and leak detection, an obstacle avoidance system, and a local remote control for surface recovery.
ECA plans to add the new function on all its AUVs, which include A9, A18 and A27, in the future, to increase the operational capabilities of these unmanned vehicles.
Image: Wreck detection mission carried out by AUV 9-M. Photo: © ECA GROUP.