World première: Thales and 19 French SMEs develop combined surface and underwater unmanned system

At Euronaval 2016, Thales and 19 French SMEs are introducing the new AUSS concept (Autonomous Underwater & Surface System), the world’s first hybrid unmanned system capable of operating both above and below the surface. AUSS is designed for a broad range of civil and military roles, including intelligence gathering, maritime counter-terrorism, mine countermeasures and offshore platforms surveillance.

Capitalising on 10 years’ experience with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) deployed on mine countermeasures missions, Thales has developed a dozen high-tech innovations for the new AUSS system.

With these innovations, the system is capable of conducting an unprecedented range of civil and military missions that were previously impossible either very complex to perform with existing AUVs.

These missions include surveillance and naval intelligence gathering on the surface, undersea warfare (mine countermeasures) and maritime counter-terrorism. Civil missions include surveillance of underwater infrastructure such as offshore oil and gas installations.

Major innovations

Designed for total manoeuvrability, AUSS can control its depth whilst moving in any direction and even when it is stationery. It is also exceptionally agile: if encountering threats or obstacles it can perform a 180° turn in less than 10 metres.

With this 360° agility, the vehicle can also stabilise a sensor mast deployed several metres above the surface, which is not possible with any other underwater vehicle of comparable size.

To meet the need for permanent surveillance, the Thales-designed AUSS offers superior endurance, making it possible to conduct missions lasting several weeks and spanning hundreds of kilometres.

AUSS employs latest-generation sensors to ensure that the information captured during its missions is of the highest quality and relevance.

With its 21″ (53 cm) diameter hull, the system is designed to be launched and recovered from any type of naval vessel and from the shore. The system can be configured for different missions to optimise resource utilisation for customers.

Joint French effort

AUSS is based on a systems approach that has been extensively proven by Thales over a number of years for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and undersea warfare operations.

The new concept is the result of a joint effort, with a total of 19 SMEs based in Brittany, Anjou and Paris taking part in the project alongside Thales for the last three years.

Sea trials have already been conducted on five occasions in 2016, confirming the system’s ability to perform a broad range of missions and deploy the latest generation of sensors.