Airbus Helicopters has announced that it has performed the first test flights with its prototype VSR700 UAS (unmanned aerial system). The tests took place at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, and involved the unmanned helicopter performing take-offs and landings, with flight times of up to ten minutes.
The VRS700 design is derived from the two-seat Cabri G2 light manned helicopter, manufactured by Hélicoptères Guimbal. The system falls into the 500-1000 kg maximum take-off weight (MTOW) class and has been designed to provide a balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost for naval missions. The unmanned helicopter will operate with a low logistical footprint, flying from naval vessels alongside manned helicopters and carrying multiple full-size sensors for extended flights.
This prototype is a step up from the previous demonstrator, which was based on an optionally-piloted modified Cabri G2. The new prototype was redesigned with a sleeker, more aerodynamic shape to improve flight performance, and equipped with a specialized set of avionics and an advanced flight control system. The pilot station was replaced with a payload bay designed to field maritime mission equipment.
To comply with regulations set out by the airworthiness authority that provided the clearance for this test flight, the prototype was tethered with 30-metre cables to fully secure the flight test zone. Airbus Helicopters intends to progress towards free flight in subsequent phases of the test programme.
Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO, commented: “The VSR700 is a fully-fledged unmanned aerial system, capitalising on Airbus Helicopters’ extensive experience of advanced autopilot systems and engineering expertise to provide modern militaries with new capabilities. This first flight of the VSR700 prototype is a major milestone for the programme as we make progress on the operational demonstrator for the French Navy that will perform trials in 2021 in partnership with Naval Group.”