The French defence procurement agency has contracted Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters to begin the process of building a demonstrator of the VSR700 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Announced on 11 January, the contract awarded by the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) covers de-risking studies ahead of construction of a VSR700 demonstrator. This initial demonstration project will lead to trials of the rotary-winged UAV from a French Navy vessel.
“The purpose of the contract awarded by the DGA is to identify, deploy and test the technologies necessary for the integration of a tactical drone-system capacity within a heavily armed vessel. It forms part of the preparation of the SDAM (Navy Airborne Drone System), whose entry into service is foreseen for the middle of the next decade on new Intermediate-Size Frigates (FTIs) and other French Navy ships.
“The study will help select the principal technologies for the SDAM and the identification of the technical risks necessary for initiating and realising the programme. The level of technological maturity sought is that of a demonstrator of the complete system in a representative environment,” Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters said in a joint statement.
As previously revealed by Airbus Helicopters, the VSR700 is essentially a Hélicoptères Guimbal Cabri G2 light helicopter that has been fitted with autonomous technologies that include a sense-and-avoid capability. For the VSR700, the Cabri G2's 180 hp Lycoming O-360 piston engine (derated to 145 hp) has been replaced by a diesel unit which reduces fuel burn by 15 kg/hr, increases endurance by up to 10 hours, and affords a mission payload of 250 kg.
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