The Danish Ministry of Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation (DALO) recently signed a framework agreement for the acquisition of six Light Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (LAUV) from the Portuguese company OCEANSCAN-MST. OceanScan-MST is a young and independent company, founded as a spin-off from the Underwater Systems and Technology Laboratory (LSTS) from Porto University. The LAUVs will be used by the Danish Navy Command’s Mine Counter Measure unit (MCM) on the Holm-class mine countermeasures vessels (MSD). The new LAUVs are used when the MCM unit has to search for and blast mines on the seabed.
The LAUV – Light Autonomous Underwater Vehicle – is a rugged, effective, lightweight autonomous underwater vehicle. The underwater drones are 2.1 m long, 15 cm in diameter, and weigh 30 kg each. The first three LAUVs will be delivered in the first quarter of 2022, where various tests and operator courses are planned. The drones are expected to be operational by summer 2022. Five of the drones have side-scan sonar modules, which are used to scan the seabed and locate the mines. In addition to this sonar, the latest drone also has a so-called ID functionality, which can take high-resolution photos as well as laser scan any threats on the seabed.
The underwater drones can sail up to eight hours at a time and must primarily operate at a depth of 4-10 meters but can operate down to a depth of 100 meters. When the unit has to search for mines, all six LAUVs can be set up at the same time, after which they calculate how to search the seabed within a given area. When the underwater drones are put into the sea, they communicate with each other so that if one finds something, it can even summon the LAUV who can take a photo of the object. This feature has not yet been acquired but is expected to be implemented soon.
A LAUV basic functional system includes a computational system, radio communications, and basic navigation sensors, the LAUV capabilities build up adding optional navigation, communications, and payload modules. The LAUV operation is supported by Neptus, the command, and control software tailored for the operation of one or more vehicles. This advanced, but user-friendly, software framework covers all the different stages of the mission life cycle: configuration, planning, simulation, execution, and post-mission data analysis. The LAUV is a cost-effective and innovative system targeted at oceanographic, hydrographic and security, and surveillance surveys.