Published: 2020-01-10

Naval drones coming to Oostende

Ports & terminals Naval drones coming to Oostende

Photo: ECA Group

ECA Group will construct its new drone manufacturing plant in the Port of Oostende. The company will be supplying their unmanned systems for 12 minesweeping drones as part of a contract with the Belgian and Dutch navies.

The contract, carried out by the Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium, consisting of ECA Group, Naval Group and involving multiple Belgian companies acting as partners and suppliers, totals at nearly €2bn.

It is an innovative approach to mine hunting, a concept known as 'stand-off'. The unmanned systems clear the mines autonomously while being controlled from the mothership located away from the danger zone. These include the submarine drone A18-M, the towed sonar T18-M, the surface drone (USV) INSPECTOR 125 and the mine inspection and neutralization drones (ROV MIDS) Seascan and K-STER, as well as the launch and recovery drone-drone systems and the necessary surface equipment.

The aforementioned systems will be manufactured at the new factory, to be built on the former site of Beliard in the port area. The 5k m2 plant is to become operational in 2022. Once the navy contract is fulfilled, the consortium foresees the possibility of future export sales.

Starting investment for the construction of the factory and production start totaled at €10m.

Dirk Declerck, CEO, Port of Oostende, commented, "The entire team is working hard on this project since the beginning of last year. This contract proves that we can fulfil our mission: the port as a driver of sustainable employment. ECA Group is looking to recruit over 70 interesting profiles, which makes our region attractive to the workforce."

Charlotte Verkeyn, Chair of the Administrative Board, Port of Oostende, added, "[…] The activities of the [ECA] Group are perfectly in line with our expansion vision in various markets. We are strengthening our economic and social system. The second reason is that they can find everything they need in Ostend: the premises, the quays, an easily accessible site and a network of companies."

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