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ECA Launches Next-Generation AUV

A18-M Offers Great Detection and Classification Performances

ECA Group unveiled its latest mid-size autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the A18-M, on 16 February. Designed specifically for the mine countermeasures (MCM) role, this compact new generation underwater drone offers unrivalled high-quality imagery and the ability to work in close proximity to the ‘smartest’ of modern mines without triggering them, at all water depths up to 300 metres.

The A18-M is more compact than its predecessors and can easily be deployed from small naval platforms, including the new generation of unmanned surface vessels (USV). This helps achieve a high degree of stability even in adverse sea states, which in turn helps to ensure the system’s very high image quality. In addition, the drone can adapt its operating depth to local conditions, thus avoiding ‘blind zones’ caused by sound speed stratification.

Advanced embedded processing allows operators to process sonar image raw data in real time and to transmit derived data to a command centre using a USV or UAS as a gateway. The command centre can then review, decide and act in response to real time data.

The A18-M can also detect improvised explosive devices (IED) or pollutants and can produce high fidelity maps of the seabed, allowing for rapid environmental or threat assessment. The system’s synthetic aperture sonar has a coverage rate of approx. 2km sq/hr – which equates to a factor of 5-10 times higher than a conventional side-looking sonar. Very large areas (in the order of 20-40km sq) can be covered in relatively short periods which, coupled with superior image quality and reduced personnel risk, makes a compelling argument for its use.

This mid-size AUV is the top trade-off between size, weight and long endurance. Its payload capacity makes it able to host high performance sonar, such as synthetic aperture sonar, providing unprecedented detection and classification performances,” commented Léonie Delacou, the company’s AUV Product Manager.

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