The DGA ordered 11 SMDMs at the end of 2020 to the SME Survey Copter, a subsidiary of Airbus Group, for an amount of 19.7 million euros, including procurement of systems and support services. Deliveries will be staggered until 2023.
The qualification was reached following sea trials conducted under the supervision of the DGA, with the participation of the French Navy and industry teams. The trials saw the drone being tested in various operational situations to verify the system’s performance.
An SMDM is composed of two Aliaca UAVs from Survey Copter. The Aliaca is set to be deployed aboard the future offshore patrol vessels of the French Navy (both the POM and future Patrouilleur Oceanique) and surveillance frigates. Integration on the Mistral-class LHD is also considered.
The Aliaca maritime UAS is a high endurance versatile system allowing up to 3 hours missions over a 50 km (27 Nm) range, perfectly adapted to maritime missions with high gyro stabilized EO/IR payload performances and qualified to operate in severe environmental conditions. Launched by catapult, the Aliaca maritime UAS concludes its flight by landing automatically using a dedicated net landing solution. With a length of 2,2m and a wingspan of 3,6m for a maximum take-off weight of 16 kg, the Aliaca maritime UAS benefits from a powerful yet silent electric motor. The system can be deployed easily and rapidly in less than 15 minutes by 2 operators only.
“These capabilities will allow the SMDM to monitor more distant areas and thus identify shps at distances beyond radar ranges and to characterize the threat through real-time video stream. The SMDM will provide the French Navy with an extended situational awareness, increasing the efficiency of the ships it will equip,” the French MoD said.
The SMDM is a modular system, designed to gradually integrate new technologies, allowing continuous improvement of its performance.