Airbus Helicopters has begun trials testing the marine take-off and landing capabilities of its VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS).
The trials were conducted using an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) based on a modified Guimbal Cabri G2 light helicopter equipped with the system’s autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) subsystem and was conducted off the coast of Brest onboard a civilian vessel equipped with a helicopter landing pad.
In addition to testing the ATOL system, which employs Airbus’s DeckFinder technology, the trials were also used to assess what the appropriate approach procedures for the system should be before landing on a vessel, as well as the general handling and maneuvering of the system.
Both the semi-autonomous and the fully autonomous modes of the ATOL system were demonstrated with success in different sea states and times, over a total of 150 autonomous launches and recoveries.
The tests pave the way for a demonstration onboard a French naval frigate
Airbus says the success of the tests pave the way for an upcoming demonstration of the system at sea onboard a French naval frigate.
“These tests in real-life conditions constitute a crucial step towards the campaign that we will conduct at sea with the DGA and the French Navy later this year,” explained Nicolas Delmas, Head of the VSR700 programme for Airbus Helicopters. “Using the OPV, we have demonstrated the unique autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700. We have also proved the optimal functioning of the vehicle and its command station interface on board a vessel in realistic conditions.”
The VSR700 UAS is being developed as part of the French Naval Aerial Drone System (SDAM) research and development program, currently being conducted by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) on behalf of the French Navy.
The first prototype of the VSR700 performed its maiden flight in 2020 and expanded its flight envelope in 2021. In April 2021, the DGA ordered a second prototype of the VSR700 to focus on trials covering SDAM requirements and to permit broader, more rapid development towards that goal.