A world leader in naval defence, DCNS has made innovation the key to its development. An approach requiring the capacity to master technologies and various concepts to build increasingly robust, efficient and ergonomic vessels.
“We must move with the times”. With innovation, we must even stay one step ahead of the times. DCNS has understood this: innovation allows us to respond to the needs of our customers or even to anticipate these to stay competitive on an ever more competitive market. Cost reduction, permanent deployment of vessels at sea, robustness, system scalability… DCNS is constantly renewing its products and developing new concepts to deliver efficiency and safety solutions to Navies.
A multidisciplinary approach
Innovation at DCNS has several facets. Power optimisation is a central issue and particularly important on military vessels that have increasingly power-intensive combat systems on board. DCNS is therefore developing hybrid mechanical electric propulsion systems with batteries, which provide savings, operational versatility and acoustic discretion.
In terms of combat systems, DCNS is working on the “integrated topside”, a multi-sensor system (radars, communication antennas, etc.) integrated into the vessel’s superstructures to see better and farther, whilst at the same time increasing stealth. The Group is also conducting experiments on the deployment of drones from a ship. Such drones have several advantages: vessels equipped with this type of drone can conduct reconnaissance missions close to the shoreline, in an area that is possibly hostile, without putting the crew in danger. The increase in the quantity of information to be processed and the networking of the different actors beyond the strict maritime theatre also requires innovation in terms of military combat concepts.
DCNS aims to build vessels that are more ergonomic and easy to use for the crew. In particular, the Group makes use of new communication technologies such as augmented reality and does not hesitate to go beyond the naval defence field to look for innovative ideas in other sectors, such as that of video games. The goal is to anticipate advances in human-machine interfaces over the next ten years. The “bridge of the future” project, a nautical navigation support tool, will make it possible to superpose a virtual 3D model on the real world in real time. This system will ensure that the crew has a better vision and understanding of its environment allowing it to perform its mission more efficiently.
The human-machine interface, at the heart of innovation
Power and acoustic-footprint optimisation, innovation in combat systems, military concepts or vessel operation: the spectrum for innovation is wide and opens numerous perspectives for the construction of the vessel of the future.
Designing a military vessel remains a challenge, which is made all the more stimulating by the recent introduction of new constraints to be taken into account such as data system security or resilience*. To rise to this challenge and adopt the increasingly numerous technologies and disciplines, DCNS is working in close collaboration with laboratories, SMEs and industrial groups with experience that is complementary to its own. But the Group also works with sailors, the end users of the vessels, and whose feedback is essential. In effect, without users to conduct trials with the systems, our developments would remain inventions and not innovations. Submarines and surface vessels are amongst the most complex “socio-technical” objects ever built by man: real institutions, they accommodate the crew for months on end and their design may only be brought to fruition if the human-machine interface is thoroughly taken into account.
* Resistance of materials to pressure and impacts.