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Portuguese Navy establishes multidomain drone unit

The Portuguese Navy is progressively introducing unmanned systems. Shown here are the OGS42VN VTOL UAV for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, and a UAV mobile ground control station. (Victor Barreira)

As part of its ambitious effort to widen the use of unmanned systems, the Portuguese Navy has established a squadron-sized unit for the operation of military-grade unmanned systems.

The new unit, called ‘X31', was officially stood up on 9 February. It is subordinated to naval command and will be responsible for operating current and future unmanned surface, subsurface, and air systems, as well as co-ordinating doctrine development and training activities, an industry source told Janes .

The creation of X31 follows an ambitious strategy by the navy to acquire unmanned systems for different missions and applications, develop unmanned systems in-house, and simultaneously support the local defence technological and industrial base.

The Portuguese Navy has acquired a wide range of unmanned systems in recent years, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as UAVision Aeronautics' Spyro 4N and OGS42N/VN, Beyond Vision's VTOne and HEIFU Pro, and Autel Robotics' EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise V2 and EVO Nano; the LSTS' Seacon-3 unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV); and a shelter-based deployable ground control station.

In the search to later acquire unmanned systems for maritime surveillance missions, the service is currently evaluating the Unmanned Oceanic Patrol Vessel (UOPV) prototype developed by TecnoVeritas and Nautiber.

The navy established the Unmanned Vehicles Operational Experimentation Cell (Célula de Experimentação Operacional de Veículos Não Tripulados: CEOV) in October 2017 to develop and experiment with unmanned technologies.

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