Why is the technology of the large XLUUV underwater drone strategic for military navies?

After the success of the test phases of its DDO demonstrator, a large underwater drone, or XLUUV, Naval Group was awarded a contract for the design of a new system of the same type, but more imposing, as well as of all the key technologies to equip and implement these naval drones.

In this area, France is not behind, and is even one of the most advanced nations, with the United States. However, it is not the only one to invest significant resources to acquire XLUUV. Indeed, knowing how to design and implement these large military underwater drones will quickly become a strategic issue for many navies. That's why…

If drones have entered the aerial battlefield for several decades, the arrival of these automated systems is much more recent in other spaces of conflict, however often for different reasons. Thus, the main obstacle to the design of a terrestrial drone lies in the management of its mobility on terrain that is by nature chaotic and changing, such as on a battlefield.

In the field of surface drones, it is above all the constraints linked to the duration of missions which concentrate the efforts of researchers. Indeed, where a combat drone will stay in the air for, at best, a few dozen hours, a large surface drone will carry out its mission over several weeks, perhaps even several months, with its share of damages and fortunes at sea.

XLUUV DDO from Naval group
Naval group's DDO large underwater drone demonstrator completed its test program in the summer of 2023.

Underwater drones, for their part, combine the constraints of surface units, with a strong imperative in terms of discretion, especially in the electromagnetic and acoustic domain, while very few countries actually have the skills to design a conventional submarine.

Thus, if, to be operational, a surface drone can rely on a data link with a control center, the essential discretion linked to the military submarine mission requires these electromagnetic exchanges to be reduced as much as possible, and therefore to design a drone with very extensive autonomy in terms of piloting, but also mission control, and even operational decision-making.

A new French program based on Naval Group’s DDO large underwater drone demonstrator

In this area, the French Naval Group has taken the lead in national military programming, by developing, with its own funds, a demonstrator called DDO, for Oceanic Drone Demonstrator.

Its presentation took place, concomitantly with its first launch, in October 2021, on the occasion of Naval Group Innovation Days, an annual industry event intended to promote and present its recent innovations and technological advances.

10 meters long for 10 tonnes of displacement, the DDO has since carried out several test campaigns, both to validate the decisions and developments of Naval Group engineers, and to collect numerous data and experiences linked to its implementation, such as this is the role of a demonstrator.

Navl Group Innovation days 2021 DDO
The DDO was presented during the Naval Group Innovation Days in October 2021.

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