Announced on 2 May during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Sydney, deeper collaboration will be undertaken between France and Australia in advanced sonar and marine robotics technologies.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between Flinders University (South Australia), ENSTA Bretagne and Thales, will deepen and extend well-established research links between the two nations in order to contribute to the future submarine programme 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 programme, 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 programmes 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,” explained Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins.

According to Alexis Morel, Vice-President Underwater Systems at Thales, discussions with Flinders University and ENSTA Bretagne has 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 programme,” he commented. 

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,” added the Vice Chancellor of Flinders University, Professor Colin Stirling.

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,” pointed out Director of ENSTA Bretagne, Pascal Pinot.

Australia’s future submarine programme will benefit from a new tripartite research agreement between Flinders University, ENSTA Bretagne and Thales, (Image: Naval Group)

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