Saildrone and Thales Australia Advance Autonomous Long-range Undersea Surveillance with USV–Towed Array Integration

Saildrone 3000
Saildrone 3000

Saildrone announced a strategic partnership with Thales Australia to integrate the Thales BlueSentry thin-line towed array with Saildrone Surveyor-class uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) for autonomous anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions. The announcement was made at the opening of Sea Air Space 2024, the premiere maritime exposition in the US, presented by the Navy League of the United States.

The Saildrone Surveyor is the largest in the Saildrone range of USVs and is capable of extreme, long-endurance missions in the open ocean. Equipped with the newest evolution of Thales’s BlueSentry towed array, the Surveyor will conduct autonomous underwater ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) for ASW applications. This enhanced USV capability supports broader naval operations by freeing up traditional low-density / high-demand manned assets to conduct other missions.

“Thales Australia has a proud history of exporting specialized sonar and acoustic products in support of one of our closest allies, the United States. Over two decades, these products have spanned the fields of Seismic survey to mine warfare and, more recently, surface ship anti-submarine warfare,” said Troy Stephen, Vice President Underwater Systems, Thales Australia and New Zealand.

“This opportunity with Saildrone now represents the ability to expand that support to include our latest innovations in the field of undersea surveillance through the BlueSentry thin line array system. The Saildrone Surveyor offers a unique capability within the field of USVs, and Thales looks forward to the opportunity of contributing to the impressive maritime domain awareness capability of the platform.”

At 20 meters long (65 feet) and weighing 15 tons, the Surveyor classifies as a medium USV, built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Light Warship code. Saildrone’s Surveyor-class USVs are designed for persistent, wide-area maritime domain awareness (MDA) missions, using radar, cameras, acoustics, and advanced machine learning to deliver comprehensive situational awareness remotely from anywhere in the world.

“The Saildrone Surveyor was developed to conduct long-duration MDA missions in remote locations. Combining the BlueSentry thin line towed array with our most capable USV provides a game-changing solution for wide-area ASW operations,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO. “Saildrone is committed to continuously delivering new advanced solutions to our defense customers, and it is wonderful to be able to add this new capability to the list of Saildrone services.”

The first production Saildrone Surveyor USV was launched last month from Austal USA in Mobile, AL. The initial group of USVs is contracted to the US Navy for the testing and evaluation of Surveyor-class vehicles in multiple environments. Upcoming Navy missions will focus on the ability of the Surveyor to deliver both surface and undersea intelligence for a range of high-priority applications, including anti-submarine warfare (ASW).