The growing threat from new-generation mines that are more difficult to detect has stimulated the demand for new minehunting systems that offer improved safety and efficiency. The Dorado vehicle, which was in operational service with the Canadian Department of National Defence, was developed to meet this need. DCN International, of France, is selling the Dorado vehicle as part of their SeaKeeper system.
The Dorado vehicle is capable of towing a sonar towfish at speeds up to 12 knots and depths to 200 meters. It is powered by a 315 kW marine diesel engine. Air is drawn through the mast and exhausted through the stabilizer above the contra-rotating propeller. The engine also provides power for the hydraulically operated control planes and the keel-mounted winch for the sonar towfish. The towfish is developed to follow the seabed at low altitudes and is fitted with a multibeam side scan sonar.
Since the hull of the vehicle is deeply submerged, drag is greatly reduced over that of a surface drone. This permits the vehicle to operate at higher speeds and over longer ranges than surface based drones of similar size.
As the mast is the only part of the vehicle to be affected by sea state, the vehicle is much more stable in waves than surface drones or small vessels. This stability allows high-quality side scan sonar records to be obtained in elevated sea states at high speeds.
Since the vehicle has a surface-piercing mast, it is able to operate and transmit sonar data over a radio data link, rather than a fixed umbilical or an acoustic telemetry link. This permits standoff ranges of up to 10 km from the MCMV – ranges that are not possible from tethered drones or fully submerged UUVs. The mast also permits the use of D-GPS for continuous target positioning – again, this is a feature not available with UUVs or tethered drones.
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