Thales Demos Fibre Laser Sensor in Sydney Harbour

Thales Australia is demonstrating its innovative Fibre Laser Sensor technology in Sydney Harbour this week as part of the Pacific 2012 International Maritime Exposition.

The company is a leader in underwater systems, operating a Centre of Excellence in Rydalmere, NSW. The Fibre Laser Senor (FLS) technology is another example of technological success in this field.

The FLS is a rapidly deployable sea-bed surveillance array representing the next generation of underwater surveillance solutions. Lightweight, ultra-thin and cost effective, an FLS array can be dropped from a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) and almost immediately provide an underwater surveillance capability.

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“FLS technology is of real significance at a time when terrorist threats are increasing,” said Chris Jenkins, Thales Australia CEO. “This technology could play an important role in border protection, deployed to protect a harbour for example, or in a force protection role, deployed around a ship to warn it about incoming surface or underwater threats.

“The technology also has commercial applications, and could be used as a seismic array to survey seabeds, for example.

“We would like to thank the Department of Defence for supporting this innovation through its investment in the FLS via the Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) program. We also acknowledge the close cooperation of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and the Royal Australian Navy, who have played key roles in this program’s development."

FLS technology uses electro-optic hydrophones (underwater microphones) to convert underwater sounds to light signals. An FLS device is embedded inside the hydrophone’s fibre-optic glass. When the hydrophone picks up the underwater noise made by another ship or submarine, the actual shape of the device changes. This change in dimensions is used to transmit the acoustic information via a light signal back along the cable, where a processor provides information about the signal to the operator.

The information coming from many underwater sensors can then be processed to provide information on the direction the underwater noise is coming from and its strength, giving the operator an indication of where another ship or submarine is, how many propellers and blades it might have, and even what direction it is travelling. The low attenuation of the optical signals potentially enables an FLS array to be several kilometres long.

Over the past 20 years, Thales has made a substantial investment in building an Australian sonar technology and expertise base. The company has supplied sonar systems for the FFG Upgrade, Collins submarine, Huon Class Minehunter and ANZAC frigates. This has created a significant capability advantage for the Royal Australian Navy, as well as important exports for the Australian economy, with over $400 million of exported sonar and related systems from Australia.

Source: Thales Group (Paris: HO.PA)
Date: Jan 31, 2012