DCNS and Thales to design and demonstrate UAV deck landing system
The French defence procurement agency (DGA) has awarded DCNS and Thales an advanced study contract for a deck landing system for unmanned aerial vehicles. The three-year contract calls for the design and demonstration of an automatic take-off, landing and deck landing system for rotorcraft UAVs. The system will be a vital component of future tactical UAV programmes, notably for the French Navy and the French Army.
The project aims to provide reproducible, risk-controlled demonstrations of deck take-offs and landings with the required discretion in a range of environmental, weather and sea state conditions, as needed for fully autonomous UAV operation. Initial landing tests are scheduled for 2009 with a view to demonstrating fully autonomous deck landing in high sea states on a French Navy frigate in 2011.
DCNS and Thales have combined their expertise and experience for this project and will develop the system under a co-contracting agreement. Thales is responsible for the landing system, the UAV system and the trajectory control system. DCNS is responsible for ship motion prediction, the deck landing strategy and for securing the UAV to the flight deck. DCNS will draw on its experience in flight deck operations and the naval UAV integration study contract it won in 2005. In October this year, DCNS demonstrated its know-how in this area when it automatically recovered a lightweight rotorcraft UAV on the flight deck of a French frigate off Toulon. The DCNS subsidiary Sirehna also has proven expertise in ship motion prediction.
Thales will leverage its experience on tactical UAV programmes in the United Kingdom, including its automatic all-weather landing system for fixed-wing UAVs, which was successfully tested by the UK Ministry of Defence in mid-2008 as part of the Watchkeeper programme. It will also draw on the results of the joint forces VTOL UAV study contract undertaken for the DGA in 2005 with the support of Boeing. Boeing will also be associated with this latest contract.
About a dozen small- and medium-size enterprises based in France will also contribute to the new-generation UAV take-off and landing system.
Thales is a leading international electronics and systems group, addressing defence, aerospace and security markets worldwide. Thales's leading-edge technology is supported by 22,000 R&D engineers who offer a capability unmatched in Europe to develop and deploy field-proven mission-critical information systems. To this end, the Group's civil and military businesses develop in parallel and share a common base of technologies to serve a single objective: the security of people, property and nations. The Group builds its growth on its unique multidomestic strategy based on trusted partnerships with national customers and market players, while leveraging its global expertise to support local technology and industrial development. Thales employs 68,000 people in 50 countries with 2007 revenues of €12.3 billion.
The DCNS Group is one of Europe's leading players on the world market for naval defence systems. To meet customer demands for more comprehensive and integrated systems, DCNS acts as prime contractor for naval shipbuilding, integration and support by combining its own development, marketing and production capabilities with those of selected partners. To manage the complexity of such projects, the Group draws on in-house expertise in naval architecture and systems engineering, ship assembly and integration and equipment design and production, as well as through-life support. The DCNS Group employs 13,000 people and generates annual revenues of around €2.8 billion.
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