BlueNaute : the perpetual navigator
Sagem (Safran group) has set a very ambitious objective indeed: to take a 20% market share for gyroscopic compasses on commercial ships within a few years. The new-generation BlueNaute attitude and heading reference system was introduced at this year's Euronaval trade show, immediately attracting keen interest from the industry. "The system is designed to provide ships with all vital navigation information, including heading, roll and pitch," explains Nicolas Burgaud, Navigation system marketing director at Sagem. "It is mainly intended for ships drafting more than 500 metric tons, which must be fitted with a gyrocompass, as well as the high-value-added market segment, including offshore vessels and mega-yachts."
Reliability and longevity
Until now, gyrocompasses were mainly equipped with mechanical gyros. Comprising several hundred parts, these compasses have a limited service life (three to five years) and require frequent servicing, thus significantly increasing operating cost. "We decided to introduce a radically innovative solution in this market," adds Nicolas Burgaud, "based on a technology that only two companies in the world offer, namely the hemispherical resonant gyro, or HRG. Made up of just a few basic parts, the HRG used in BlueNaute is extremely reliable of course, but above all it offers a virtually infinite service life because there is no wear involved."
A technology success
Why – and how – has this advanced technology, usually used on satellites, been applied to the maritime sector? Quite simply because Sagem was able to modify several basic components, in particular the electrodes, which are reduced from three to two dimensions, making them easier to machine. These patented innovations have significantly reduced production costs, and opened doors into new markets. As Nicolas Burgaud explains, "We decided to design an inertial navigation product line for the commercial shipping market. Because the development cycle was shorter, we could enter this market more quickly. While BlueNaute is more expensive to buy than entry-level solutions, it is far more cost-effective over the long term. Ship-owners just cannot afford to have their ships laid up because a gyrocompass is being repaired. And our hi-rel, maintenance-free solution really fits the bill!" Sagem will eventually develop its HRG solutions for other sectors, including land vehicles and commercial aircraft.