Sonar, naval robotics MoU signed during Macron’s Sydney visit

Deeper collaboration between Australia and France in advanced sonar and naval robotics technology will flow from a research agreement announced in Sydney today during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Flinders University in South Australia, ENSTA Bretagne – a French national graduate engineering institute in Brest, and Thales will deepen and extend research linkages between Australia and France in order to contribute to the Future Submarine Program in Australia, the trio said in a joint statement.

Chris Jenkins, Thales Australia CEO, said the President’s official visit was an opportunity to highlight the strength of the strategic relationship between Thales and France.

“This is all about attracting the best and brightest in both Australia and France to work on the challenges of the future submarine program, ensuring Australia gets the best capability. The MOU provides a long term framework for collaboration in naval robotics applicable to both submarine and surface ship sonars, including opportunities to share testing facilities, operate exchange programs and facilitate joint research projects,” Jenkins commented.

Alexis Morel, Vice-President Underwater Systems at Thales, revealed that discussions with Flinders University and ENSTA Bretagne had already identified two topics for research collaboration – one to design a demonstrator for the automatic connection of electro-optical links in a maritime environment and secondly for the development of USV test vehicles suitable to test autonomy algorithms on robotic swarms at sea.

“This collaboration will build Australian capability, provide internships for both undergraduate and post-graduate Flinders University students in France and contribute to design solutions for the future submarine program,” Morel pointed out.

“This MOU will open up great opportunities for closer collaboration with Thales research laboratories and follows the recent announcement that Flinders University will be one of Thales Australia’s academic partners in the new Defence Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems,” Colin Stirling, Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor, said.

Pascal Pinot, ENSTA Bretagne Director, stressed the fact that the MoU was a necessary base to start new research projects between Flinders University, Thales and ENSTA Bretagne which would in turn reinforce the cooperation between the defence ministries of the two countries.

“The MoU was built in order to lead to tangible research work between us in the short term particularly in the field of underwater robotics. It builds on the strength of all three participants in the framework of the increasing bilateral defence cooperation,” Pinot noted.

Photo: Macron visiting Collins class submarine HMAS Waller on May 2. Photo: Christopher Pyne/Twitter