Unmanned Surface/Subsurface Team a Force Multiplier for Seabed Warfare

The DriX
The DriX Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) from iXblue.

On Thursday 15 September, the DriX Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) from iXblue and the ECA Group’s A18D Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) were demonstrated to naval defence media during a pre-Euronaval visit to La Ciotat in southern France.

With seabed warfare and asset protection an increasing concern for naval forces, the two unmanned systems demonstrated that when operating together they could act as a naval force multiplier to investigate the seabed at up to a maximum depth of 6,000 metres, with missions such as undersea cable and pipeline examination.

The DriX, although similar in shape to a submersible, remains on the surface while the A18D conducts the underwater mission. Communication between the two unmanned craft is maintained using IXblue’s Gaps acoustic subsea positioning system which is located in a submerged casing underneath the AUV. The A18D collects data through onboard systems such as an interferometric SAS sonar. The DriX can act as a communication relay between the A18D via satellite/4G through to the command centre wherever it is located, transmitting back data without the AUV having to surface.

ECA Group’s A18D
ECA Group’s A18D Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)

The DriX can also operate with multiple AUVs at the same time. For military operators, it can work remotely from a carrier vessel and its low radar signature makes it difficult to detect. The AUV remains mostly underwater even when surfaced.

In 2021 the A18D was evaluated by the French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), the French Navy and the Naval Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (Shom), performing missions up to a depth of 3,000m.

The DriX is now a mature system and at least 20 have been produced and are operational around the world conducting a variety of missions.

by Andrew Drwiega