Airbus Helicopters VSR700 unmanned aerial system prepares to land on the French Navy frigate Provence. Airbus Helicopters photo
Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group, in collaboration with the French Armament General Directorate and the French Navy, have successfully tested the Naval Aerial Drone System, based on the VSR700 rotary wing unmanned aerial system, from a multi-mission frigate.
The weeklong trials took place on board the French Navy frigate Provence, in the Mediterranean Sea and concluded on Oct. 9. Airbus officials said the system, developed and built in France, should be operational by 2026.
“We are very happy with the success of these trials which mark a major step in the reinforcement of the French Navy's future capabilities,” said Pierre-Eric Pommellet, chief executive of Naval Group. “We have passed a significant milestone in terms of the complexity of the integration of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) on board a heavily armed vessel, both physically and operationally.”
The vessel was adapted by Naval Group to operate the drone, which in French is known as the Système de Drone Aérien Marine, or SDAM. The sea trials were arranged to demonstrate the system’s performance from an operational warship and the SDAM’s capabilities for surveillance and intelligence missions, Airbus said in a statement
“We are proud to see that the SDAM and the VSR700 are maturing,” said Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive Bruno Even. “The system that we will offer will be able to operate from a frigate and be adapted to the naval missions it was designed for. Working alongside Naval Group and other local partners we are building a robust and sovereign solution. I look forward to further demonstrating the potential of our system and to collaborating with the French Navy in order to offer an initial operational capability by 2026.”
A contract to conduct a “derisking” study for the SDAM program was awarded to Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group by the French Armament General. The objective is to design, produce and test a rotary wing unmanned aerial system demonstrator for the French Navy.
The system works with the Airbus Helicopters VSR700 unmanned aerial system and the I4Drones mission system developed by Naval Group. Naval Group is also integrating the system onboard military vessels. The project also involves other French aircraft companies like Guimbal Helicopters and Diades, with hopes of creating a local naval UAS industry in France, Airbus said.
“These trials have also shown the relevance of the Naval Group I4Drones mission system and the fact that the SDAM demonstrator can seamlessly be integrated on a vessel and will work harmoniously with other existing systems,” Pommellet said. “In synergy with the ship’s combat system and the embarked helicopter, the drone will be another means to access complementary airspaces and will truly be a remote sensor that will expand the crew’s perception and treatment of threats in real-time.”