Underwater and surface drones to be manufactured in new plant in Port of Ostend
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    Underwater and surface drones to be manufactured in new plant in Port of Ostend

    France’s ECA Group has been granted a 30-year concession to set up a drone factory at the Port of Ostend.

    The 5,000 m² plant will manufacture underwater and surface drones for 12 future Belgian and Dutch navy minesweepers and create 70 jobs.

    The concession contract was signed on Thursday.

    ECA Robotics Belgium, the Belgian subsidiary of the ECA Group, will begin construction work in 2021 on the site of the former Beliard naval shipyard, officially known as the Ateliers de Réparations et Chantiers Beliard, Crighton & Cie. A budget of €10 million has been earmarked for construction and production start-up, according to ECA Robotics Belgium.

    The factory will initially manufacture about 100 drones, with the first ones expected in 2022. They will be used to detect mines and neutralize them using unmanned vessels. The drones will serve the Dutch and Belgian navies first of all, but the idea is ultimately to export them worldwide from Ostend, ECA Robotics Belgium General Director Steven Luys explained.

    ECA Group, in cooperation with another French concern, Naval Group, last year obtained a contract to supply the Belgian and Dutch navies with 12 new-generation minesweepers at a total cost of about €2.2 billion.

    The factory in Ostend will produce all the ECA Group drones to be supplied to the Belgian and Dutch marine forces: the A18-M autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), T18-M towed sonar, Inspector 125 surface drone (USV), K-STER and Seascan mine disposal and scanning systems, drone-drone deployment and recovery systems as well as surface equipment.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times