What if the threat came from the depths? Christian Estrosi admits to having asked himself the question since the July 14 attack. Especially in a city like Nice, rich in cultural or sporting events which, for malevolent spirits, can be so many “Strong temptations”: “We saw what happened on a certain September 11, in New York, by air and we think it would be easy to do the same thing by sea.”
The target could be “a port, sensitive infrastructure, or one-off events such as the Cannes Film Festival or the next Olympic Games organized in 2024 in Marseille”, lists Marc Delorme, Sonar Line and Product Director for surveillance, at Tales.
This world leader in the Defense and new technologies sector has teamed up with a start-up on the Côte d’Azur to find an effective solution to the risk of intrusion by underwater means. Their detection system has just been tested off the small port of Carras.
Life-size test in Baie des Anges
In all discretion, the BlueGuard project was installed nearly two months ago on the site of the Haliotis wastewater treatment plant, at the western entrance to the Baie des Anges. Typically, this strategic equipment could well be on the list of potential targets for a terrorist attack by sea.
How to protect it? This is the challenge of BlueGuard, a technological innovation combining the acoustics skills of the giant Thales with the agility of a local nugget of artificial intelligence, Mydatamodels, created three years ago in Sophia Antipolis. and hosted for several months at the European Center for Business and Innovation (CEEI) in Nice.
A radio wave system
“The problem is that at sea you cannot install a barrier or a fence, underlines Marc Delorme. It is an environment opaque to electromagnetic waves, where the cameras see nothing.”
To detect a potentially hostile presence despite everything, Thales has developed a radio wave system. A transmitting antenna sends a “ping” which hydrophones, underwater microphones, then pick up.
If, in passing, the signal hits a submerged object, BlueGuard is able to identify its nature, whether it is a diver, a propulsion device, a drone… or a just a dolphin.
An algorithm identifies if there is a threat
It remains to be determined whether this is a threat. This is where the algorithm developed by Mydatamodels comes into play. Depending on the echo, its trajectory, its speed and some additional classified data, the software is able to define in record time the dangerousness of this underwater activity. “With a reliability level of 95%”, assures Félix Kudelka, development manager of the Côte d’Azur start-up. In any case, these are the conclusions of these full-scale tests carried out in Baie des Anges.
15 minutes to react
The BlueGuard system aims to detect any underwater threat sufficiently upstream to offer a reaction time of 15 minutes. Enough to allow the authorities to react in time, even in the face of a risk which, until this “global innovation”, would have had every chance of remaining invisible until the last moment. At Thales, we hope that this new kind of technology tested in Nice will be fully operational by 2024 and the big meeting of the Paris Olympics, some of which will be organized opposite the Canebière.
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