Australia's Future Submarine Program is set to benefit from an agreement between Thales and Australian and French universities that will explore deeper research collaboration across advanced sonar and naval robotics technology.
Thales signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Australia's Flinders University and France's graduate and post-graduate engineering school ENSTA Bretagne while French President Emmanuel Macron was in Australia.
The MoU aims to deepen and extend well established research linkages between Australia and France in order to contribute to the future submarine program in Australia.
"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," Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said.
"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. It builds on an already strong relationship between Thales and Flinders University in Australia as well as between ENSTA Bretagne and Thales in Brest, France."
Discussions between Thales, Flinders University and ENSTA Bretagne have 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 the second 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," said Alexis Morel, vice-president in charge of underwater systems at Thales.
Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the University was delighted to be partnering with Thales teams based in Australia and in France.
"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 Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems."
ENSTA Bretagne director Pascal Pinot stressed the fact the MoU was a necessary base to start new research projects between Flinders University, Thales and ENSTA Bretagne which would in turn reinforce the co-operation between the defence ministries of the two countries.
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"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 co-operation," Pinot said.