ECA Group announced Wednesday it selected the SKELDAR V-200 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system (UAS) for integration with the Belgian and Dutch cooperative naval Mine Countermeasure (MCM) program.
The project involves building twelve mine hunters equipped with drone systems (Toolbox) to the Belgian and Dutch navies. The contract will span over ten years.
Six ships will be delivered to the Belgian navy and six to the Dutch navy; they will be equipped with a complete drones system (Toolbox) containing a total of more than a hundred underwater, surface and aerial drones entirely dedicated to mine hunting.
"Working across 12 new generation ships, this contract is the first to materialize the stand-off concept by using a Toolbox – a system composed of a variety of drones to be deployed by operators in order to fulfil autonomous mine clearance missions at sea," ECA Group said in a statement.
The project recently completed “Systems Functional Review” phase. After a design period of three years, Belgium Naval & Robotics will move on to the production phase of these ships and drone systems, with an initial delivery scheduled for 2024.
Naval Group is tasked with producing computer networks, electrical installations, propulsion or combat systems that will go on the ships; while the drones are manufactured by ECA Group.
The UAV SKELDAR V-200 is an integrated part of the Toolbox, which will also consist of surface drones USV INSPECTOR125, underwater drones AUV A18M and towed sonars T18 for mine detection, alongside the MIDS (Mine Identification and Disposal) system for mine identification and neutralization, SEASCAN and K-STER.
Selected also by the German and Canadian Navies, the SKELDAR V-200 provides navies with an embedded, “eye in the sky” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability to enhance its capacity to perform primary and secondary missions.
For the contract with ECA Group, serial deliveries of the UAV SKELDAR V-200 are expected to start in 2023.