Airbus Helicopters conducts successful sea trials for VSR700 autonomous take-off and landing capabilities

Off the coast of Brest, France, Airbus Helicopters has successfully carried out sea trials for the autonomous capabilities of the VSR700, which is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) developed in the frame of the Système de drone aérien de la Marine (SDAM) programme and conducted by the DGA (Direction générale de l’Armement – the French Armament General Directorate) for the French Navy.

The trials were carried out using an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) based on a modified Guimbal Cabri G2 equipped with the autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) system which has been specifically developed for the VSR700. Both the semi-autonomous and the fully autonomous modes of the ATOL system were demonstrated with success in different sea states.

The VSR700 uses Airbus DeckFinder to enable autonomous ship deck take-off and landings in all weather conditions, whether during the day or at night. Overall, 150 autonomous launches and recoveries took place. The handling and manoeuvring of the OPV, representative of the VSR700, on the ship deck were also tested. Designed to operate alongside other shipborne naval assets, the VSR700 is a UAS in the 500-1,000 kg maximum take-off weight range. It offers the best balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost. It is capable of carrying multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

The OPV can carry one test pilot in order to enable safer and more agile initial testing before those systems are integrated into the fully autonomous VSR700. The OPV initially conducted piloted take-offs and landings before switching progressively to fully autonomous maneuvers.

“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.”

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