French robotics, automation, and industrial group ECA has unveiled a new addition to its Inspector family of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs).
Developed in conjunction with ECA's naval architecture subsidiary BE Mauric, the 12 m Inspector 120 has been designed to provide increased endurance, a higher payload capacity, and improved seakeeping for mine countermeasure (MCM) missions.
ECA has been developing USVs for approximately 15 years. After supplying the Inspector Mk 1 remote-control target craft to France's Direction générale de l'armement in 2008, the company went on to develop the 9 m Inspector Mk 2 USV, latterly rebranded as the Inspector 90.
Several Inspector 90 USVs have been sold for MCM applications in conjunction with components from ECA's proprietary Unmanned Mine Counter Measure Integrated System (UMIS). Payloads integrated include the Seascan Mk 2 remotely-operated mine identification vehicle, K-ster mine neutralisers, and towed and forward-looking sonars.
According to ECA, the larger Inspector 120 USV has been brought to market to provide a platform with increased capacity and better seakeeping for the operation of autonomous underwater system payloads from the UMIS family. The company adds that it has worked with BE Mauric to optimise the design according to the characteristics and constraints of a range of different mother ship platforms; a dedicated launch-and-recovery system (LARS) developed by ECA is designed to allow the Inspector 120 to be deployed from vessels down to 50 m in length in sea state 4-5 conditions.
Building on the pedigree of the Inspector 90, the larger Inspector 120 has been designed to automatically launch and recover ECA's own unmanned maritime systems, such as the A18-M autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the T18-M towed sonar, Seascan Mk 2, and K-ster.
The hullform itself has been designed to balance requirements for seakeeping at high speed in transit, and stability at very low speed for launch and recovery of unmanned payloads.
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