New markets in autonomous robotics: Groupe Gorgé prepares its future growth

Published on February 3, 2022 – News

The A18D autonomous underwater drone, a solution for hydro-oceanography and deep-sea survey

The A18D AUV surveillance drone, derived from a version developed for underwater mine hunting, was recently tested operationally by French defense procurement agency, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French Navy and the French Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (Shom) as part of the “future hydrographic and oceanographic capability” program (CHOF). This program aims to renew, sustain and transform the current French hydrographic and oceanographic data acquisition and processing capacity by 2025/2026.

Embarked on a ship of the French Navy, the A18D carried out a wide variety of missions over 8 consecutive days to accurately map the relief and seabed up to 3,000 meters deep in the currents and swells of the Atlantic. The drone has proven to be very reliable and has demonstrated the ease of its installation and implementation, notably thanks to its optimized size-to-weight ratio (5.7 m – 780 kg), and its intuitive user interface. The quality of the very high resolution images acquired by the A18D was also recognized, as well as its added value to this type of mission, depending on the choice of onboard sensors.

With the supervision of ECA Group, the onboard teams of the DGA, the French Navy and the Shom were able to take control of the AUV and be autonomous in all the stages of its mission: from preparation, launching, supervision of the measurement campaigns, to the recovery of the vehicle and the exploitation of the data obtained. These tests proved the maturity of the A18D. In addition, the richness of the experience feedback has allowed to evaluate the potential use of this UAV to accompany and enrich hydro-oceanography missions.

In addition to scientific missions such as hydrography, which are very demanding, the A18D’s performance naturally lends itself to seabed surveillance, thanks to the wide range of payloads it can carry, depending on the use concept and the mission profile, whether civilian or military. Controlling the deep sea is now a strategic challenge for many navies around the world, including France, which has made it one of the priorities of its “France 2030” investment plan. Surveying this space is of prime importance to ensure the integrity of the devices that are installed there (communication cables, pipelines, etc.) and through which 95% of the world’s information flows, to search for debris or wreckage, and to locate possible malicious systems.

The A18D already offers these capabilities at depths of up to 3,000 meters, and has the potential to be upgraded in the medium term to a version that can operate at depths of up to 6,000 meters. It is thus a key element in the construction of a French strategy for deep seabed survey.

Maritime surveillance and port protection: Groupe Gorgé’s drone systems demonstrate their capabilities

ECA Group recently showcased its capabilities in maritime surveillance and protection at an expo-demonstration off the coast of Hyères, in the South of France.

The group partnered with several industry manufacturers to showcase how autonomous systems work together to protect at-risk maritime sites. The demonstration illustrated the ability of several drones to locate, identify and neutralize potential threats. These threats can be of any size and can endanger maritime areas such as ports, sporting events and marine protected areas.

Capable of offering several types of drones, ECA Group is one of the few players able to respond effectively to these protection and surveillance needs. Its range of multi-environment robots includes a USV surface drone, an aerial UAV drone and several AUV underwater drones, all capable of operating interactively as a team and managed by a single command and control system, UMISOFT. The demonstration highlighted the group’s skills and expertise in decision-making, robot team management, sensor management and data collection and processing.

Autonomous logistics: positive commercial prospects for the AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robot) solution in France and abroad

ECA Group has designed an autonomous vehicle with unique performances due to its ability to operate both outdoors and inside buildings, ensuring logistics flows in total autonomy, in all weather conditions and in complete safety in an environment of coactivity with other vehicles without modifying the infrastructure.

After a first commercial success with IDEA, a leading logistic company, which deployed an AMR on the Airbus site in Nantes, ECA Group has just successfully carried out a test campaign on a site of a major German industrial group. The unique performance of this solution has been validated despite difficult weather conditions. New contracts are expected to materialize in 2022 in various industrial sectors such as steel, construction, gas production, nuclear and food processing.

The model in question, the L-S 1PT, is dedicated to inter-building pallet transport by protecting its load from bad weather. A complementary model allowing to lift a pallet to a height of 6 meters outdoors and still in complete autonomy will be available very soon. These two AMRs are part of a larger catalog offering a range of autonomous robots specially developed to meet the growing need for autonomy in the logistics sector. The strong performance of this business segment has positioned the group as a pioneer in autonomous indoor-outdoor logistics solutions. Groupe Gorgé relied on technological bricks linked to autonomy and navigation, initially developed for the defense sector over the last 10 years, in order to create a competitive advantage in this commercial application field.

All these new fields of application for autonomous robotics represent several billion euros of potential addressable markets in the medium and long term. They open up significant prospects beyond the field of underwater mine hunting. With these various actions, Groupe Gorgé is pursuing its efforts to capture a significant share of these markets, relying in particular on its existing and proven drone solutions.