Aerospace

Airbus’ drone helicopter prototype performs first flight

The prototype of Airbus’ VSR700 unmanned aerial system has performed its first flight at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. The VSR700 performed several take-offs and landings on Friday 8th of November with the longest flight lasting around 10 minutes.

Designed to operate alongside other shipborne naval assets, the VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS) provides commanders with a larger and clearer tactical picture, multiplies search and rescue power, and offers a highly capable autonomous platform in times of heightened threats. Its compact size enhances stealth, and its payload accommodates a host of long-range, high-performance sensors—the optimal capability enhancement for modern navies.

For safety reasons, the VSR700 was tethered to a 30-metre cable to fully secure the flight test zone. The subsequent phases of the flight test programme will now evolve towards free flight, and then progressively open the flight envelope.

The VSR700, derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, is an unmanned aerial system made with a full composite structure. 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 in existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

The VSR700 prototype which has just performed its maiden flight is a step change from the optionally piloted demonstrator that first flew in 2017 and which was based on a modified Cabri G2 equipped for autonomous flight. Compared to the demonstrator, the VSR700 prototype has a specialized set of avionics and an advanced flight control system, a payload bay in place of the pilot station designed to manage mission equipment, as well as a sleeker, more aerodynamic shape to improve flight performance.

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