Monday, 15 January 2018

Naval Group, Airbus collaborate on helicopter drone project

France wants a naval UAV ready to enter service around 2025. Shown here is the VSR700 drone system under development by Airbus Helicopters for military clients. (Airbus)

PARIS ― Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters are to launch a technology study for a helicopter drone for the French Navy’s heavily armed ships.

“The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) signed Dec. 29, 2017, a contract with Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters for a study which prepares for the future capability of tactical drones with a vertical take-off from French Navy ships (the Navy Airborne Drone System),” the DGA procurement office said Jan. 11 in a statement.

A DGA spokesman declined to provide the contract’s value.

The target is to have a demonstrator with mature technology by mid-2021, DGA said. The demonstrator program includes flights from a frigate.

Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters will work with Hélicoptères Guimbal, a small to medium-sized company that builds the two-seat Cabri G2 light helicopter, the DGA said.

Thales as well as Safran Electronics & Defense will also work on the project, drawing on technology and capabilities on fixed-wing drones acquired through research requested by the procurement office since 2005, the DGA said. Other small and medium companies, mostly French, will be involved.

“The contract covers de-risking studies ahead of construction of a future tactical helicopter drone demonstrator aboard warships,” Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters said in a joint statement. The project aims to conduct trials of the airborne vehicle, launch and mission systems, working on a French Navy vessel. Onera, the aerospace research office, is one of the main subcontractors.

Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters will act as the program design authority, the two companies said.

The naval UAV is expected to enter service around 2025 on the FTI intermediate frigate and other French Navy warships.

Airbus Helicopters has developed its VSR700 naval drone based on the Cabri G2, while Naval Group has worked on integrating that unmanned helicopter onto warship systems.

Original post:

VSR700, versatile and robust solution

Sea trials of a manned Cabri G2 with French Navy Horizon-class air defence frigate Forbin. French Navy picture courtesy of Airbus Helicopters.

Based on an innovative, versatile, robust and economical helicopter platform, the VSR700 drone system is being developed by Airbus Helicopters to offer its military clients the best possible combination of multi-role performance, reliability and operating costs. This 700-kg drone, derived from a light civilian helicopter, the Cabri G2, benefits from the technical know-how of Airbus Helicopters in certified autonomous flight systems and naval helicopters. A campaign of autonomous flights was started in June 2017 using an unmanned Cabri G2 prototype to validate the integration of the flight control systems and the vehicle’s new engine system, opening the way for the first flight of the VSR700 in 2018.

“I would like to thank the DGA and the French Navy for the trust they have placed in the VSR700 drone which, thanks to the combined experience of Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group, is expected to play a crucial role in the aero-maritime operation theatres of tomorrow” declared Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.

The VSR700 can exceed 10 flight hours of operational autonomy with a payload capacity of up to 150 kg, offering performance levels that have, until now, been the reserve of aircraft of a significantly higher category and size. The system will benefit from all the know-how of Airbus Helicopters in terms of automated flight control (the guarantee of a unique automatic deck-landing capacity in rough seas), autonomous navigation system, secure data link, the integration of sensors such as radar and optronic systems, the management of complex mission systems and the certification of military aircraft. This expertise, which builds on a heritage going back more than 70 years, allows Airbus Helicopters to design a drone system that precisely meets the needs of the French Navy. The aerial vehicle has low maintenance requirements and strong synergies with the ships existing logistical footprint, thus limiting support and operations costs, while its compact size is compatible with the simultaneous use of an on-board helicopter across different surface ships. Source:

The UAV can be integrated with a range of optional payloads, including a Thales anti-submarine warfare (ASW) module with a sonobuoy launcher, Survitec RFD search and rescue (SAR) raft, a Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical (EO) system, a L-3 Wescam MX-15 EO system, a Thales active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and a LRAD 450XL long range acoustic hailing device.


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