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Navy League 2024: Saildrone, Thales Australia partner to enhance surveillance capability of USVs

Saildrone has partnered with Thales Australia to enhance the capabilities of its Surveyor-class USVs (pictured) by equipping them with Thales Australia's BlueSentry thin-line fibre-optic towed array. (Saildrone)

Thales Australia has signed an agreement with California-based Saildrone to collaborate on integrating its BlueSentry sonar system into Saildrone's Surveyor-class unmanned surface vessels (USVs).

The agreement, announced at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2024 global maritime exposition in National Harbor, Maryland, on 8 April, will help to enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of the Surveyor-class USVs, Saildrone and Thales Australia said.

BlueSentry will augment Surveyor's capacity to conduct persistent surveillance for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, maritime domain awareness (MDA), and open-ocean hydrographic surveys, the companies added.

The Surveyor-class USVs equipped with the BlueSentry sonar system will be deployed from shore to conduct autonomous underwater ISR missions for extended durations and in all weather conditions. This enhanced USV will support “broader naval operations by freeing up traditional low-density/high-demand manned assets to conduct other missions”, the companies said.

According to Thales, BlueSentry is a thin-line fibre-optic towed array (FOTA) that can be deployed on surface and subsurface naval platforms to support ASW and MDA. It comprises acoustic sensor technology for active and passive applications, signal processing, and a recording and reporting system.

BlueSentry is also integrated into Ocius' Bluebottle USVs that are being used by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) for ISR. Thales Australia has previously said its BlueSentry FOTA is a “miniaturised version of a submarine” FOTA in form and function, “enabling autonomous detection, classification, and localisation of craft on the surface or below the water that generate acoustic noise or produce acoustic reflections”. It has been designed, developed, and manufactured at Thales Australia's Acoustics Centre of Excellence at Rydalmere in New South Wales.

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