France’s VSR700 maritime drone flies in operational configuration at sea
The VSR700 performed 80 fully autonomous take-offs and landings from a civil vessel off the west coast of France at the beginning of May.
Airbus Helicopters VSR700 programme head Nicolas Delmas said: ‘This flight test campaign was an important step for the VSR700 programme as it allowed us to validate the excellent performance of the drone in operational conditions, which were representative of its future missions.
‘The VSR700 prototype opened its flight envelope in winds above 40 knots, accumulated eight hours of testing in 14 flights, and made successful landings in several different sea states.’
The autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700 were previously tested from the same vessel using an optionally piloted vehicle based on a modified Guimbal Cabri G2 light helicopter featuring a VSR700-based autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) system.
The latest test campaign took place with the Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM) demonstrator and validated its capabilities as part of the SDAM study contracted to Naval Group and Airbus in 2017.
A system called DeckFinder is critical to the autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700. DeckFinder allows UAVs to launch and recover within an accuracy of 10-20cm in harsh conditions, independently of GPS and in visually degraded conditions.
Other trials in late 2022 and early 2023 from the Levant Island test centre in France tested the capabilities of the drone’s sensors and mission system.
A second VSR700 prototype will perform a maiden flight before testing aboard a French Navy FREMM frigate later this year.
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