Delivering the UMIS system to the first customers in 2016, ECA Group’s solution made conventional mine hunters obsolete. It has proven to be faster in fulfilling operations, more efficient, cost-effective and safe, as the crew is kept away from minefield.
Using conventional mine hunters on a minefield have indeed many drawbacks.
First, the high cost to reduce the ship's magnetic signature to a very low level. Secondly, the ship detects mines using a Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS) of which mine classification depends, on its range and resolution. ECA Group sonar expert Dr. Marc Pinto explains that “Physics of sonar dictates that you can't have both range and resolution : Long range sonars have poor resolution. High resolution sonars have very limited range. With conventional mine hunters, it is either required to approach and manoeuver close to the possible mine for a good classification, which is risky and time-consuming, or, the minehunter stays far from the targets, leading to a low resolution and a high probability to miss some mines, which is also a high risk ”.
In comparison, ECA Group’s UMIS deploys Autonomous Underwater vehicles (AUVs) carrying the sonar and Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) which bring identification and disposal vehicles in the minefield, leaving the mothership away in a safe zone. The UMIS manages a set of drones which cooperate autonomously into the dangerous area. “It is proved that, operating in parallel, the UMIS system can divide by 3 at least, the time of missions, and comes with a higher efficiency and clearance rate.” reports VADM (Ret.) Christian CANOVA, FRN, Undersea Warfare Expert and former NATO Maritime Command Deputy Commander.
Legacy (left) and modern minehunting system. The legacy system operates in the minefield with very costly risk-reduction measures, whereas the modern UMIS system uses forward-deployed unmanned systems, reducing risk and cost.
UMIS system uses SEASCAN MK2 for identification and the K-STER C mine disposal system for neutralization and can be used collaboratively with the embedded Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) in A9-M AUV or A18-M AUV, to reduce the MCM Missions duration.
ECA Group’s Autonomous Underwater vehicles (AUVs) are able to operate above 5m depths, and adjust their operating depth to ensure high acoustic performance regardless of environmental conditions. These unmanned robots can operate without crews entering dangerous areas. Furthermore it allows the use of very high resolution sensors with a step change in mine classification performance.
ECA Group’s Unmanned Surface vehicles (USVs) are an essential component of UMIS, as it acts as an intelligent docking system for AUVs or ROVs, allowing them to be automatically deployed and recovered : it enables recharging and data download, as well as fast transits. The USV can be equipped with satellite, radio and WiFi for easier communications, as well as acoustic modem and short baselines for underwater communications and positioning. This allows underwater inspection and intervention to be supervised by an operator based on a safe spot. Last, the Unmanned Surface vehicles equipped with a down-looking sonar is the ideal platform for detection of in-volume mines as well as obstacles (such as nets) for safe AUV navigation.