Airbus Helicopters is set to conduct the first fully unmanned flight demonstration of its Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) by the end of June, Jane’s has learned.
The OPV is a modified Hélicoptères Guimbal Cabri G light helicopter being used to develop the control laws for the VSR700, a vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTOL UAV) aimed at meeting a future French Navy shipborne UAV requirement called the Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM).
The air vehicle – which is equipped with a 155hp Continental CD-155 heavy fuel piston engine and low vibration three-blade main rotor – has logged 70 flying hours with a safety pilot on board since May 2017.
“The Cabri will be able to land on ships even in heavy seas,” said Hélicoptères Guimbal designer Bruno Guimbal.
The VSR700 programme is led by Airbus Helicopters in partnership with Hélicoptères Guimbal and Naval Group. It is expected to have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 700 kg as well as a 10-hour endurance while carrying a 100 kg payload.
However, it is envisioned that the air vehicle will eventually perform 8-hour missions up to 80 n miles from a mothership with a dual payload comprising a lightweight surface radar as well as an electro-optical camera.
Production of the VSR700 first prototype has already commenced with its first flight now expected by the end of 2018. A second prototype will join the test flight campaign in 2019.
Airbus Helicopters plans to bring the VSR700 to the export market between 2020 and 2023 as a shipborne reconnaissance platform, noting that it is already in contact with several potential customers.
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