French robotics, automation and industrial group ECA (Stand 07-B57) has unveiled its new 'unsinkable' Inspector 125 unmanned surface vehicle (USV).
Developed in conjunction with its naval architecture subsidiary Mauric, the 12.3m Inspector 125 has been designed to provide increased endurance, a higher payload capacity and improved seakeeping for roles such as mine countermeasures (MCM), ocean survey, anti-submarine warfare, and force protection.
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 9m 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 Countermeasure 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 125 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 basis for the new design is the robust and survivable V2 NG rescue boat designed by Mauric for the SNSM (Association of French Sea Rescuers).
"For us, this alliance of our respective know-how in robotics and naval architecture has been particularly fruitful for designing the Inspector 125," said Mauric general manager Pascal Lemesle.
"We innovated each one in our field to obtain a new generation of naval surface drone. It is more resistant and enduring, more powerful, more autonomous and more modular."
Building on the pedigree of Inspector 90, the larger Inspector 125 has been designed to automatically launch and recover ECA's unmanned maritime systems such as the A18-M AUV, the T18-M towed sonar, Seascan Mk 2 and K-ster. These can be launched and recovered, even in rough seas, using ECA's own systems.
The Inspector 125 can carry up to 3 tonnes of payload. In the standard version, it is equipped with two water-jets in order to achieve a top speed of more than 25kts at full load displacement. Alternatively, the design can be configured with twin shaft lines and propellers to meet specific towing requirements.
The large working deck aft provides space to embark a range of mission payloads. For example, in the MCM role the Inspector 125 can carry on its main deck up to two Seascan vehicles and six K-ster neutralisers at the same time. Alternatively, it can deploy a towed sonar such as ECA's own T18-M, an A18-M medium-sized autonomous underwater vehicle, or a dual-influence minesweeping system.
The Inspector 125 USV can be operated and deployed from a ship or the shore, and is also air-transportable.
As with all of ECA's autonomous robotic systems, it can be fully integrated into the UMIS system as well as the UMISOFT software suite.
Additionally, it can form part of the OCTOPODA 500 MCM mother ship toolbox, which Mauric has purpose-designed to support stand-off MCM operations using unmanned vehicles and offboard sensors.