Earlier this month, the prototype of Airbus Helicopters’ VSR700 unmanned aerial system performed its first flight — at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in southern France.
The aircraft made several take-offs and landings, with the longest flight lasting around 10min.
In accordance with the airworthiness authority that provided the flight clearance, the VSR700 was tethered by 30m cables. The subsequent phases of the flight test programme will progress towards free flight.
Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters’ CEO (www.airbus.com
), said: “The VSR700 is a fully fledged unmanned aerial system that capitalises on the company’s extensive experience of advanced autopilot systems and engineering expertise to give modern militaries new capabilities.
"This first flight of the VSR700 prototype is a major milestone for the programme, as we make progress on the operational demonstrator for the French Navy.”
The VSR700, derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, is an unmanned aerial system in the 500-1,000kg maximum take-off weight range.
It can carry multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.
The VSR700 prototype is a step change from the optionally piloted demonstrator that first flew in 2017 and was based on a modified Cabri G2 equipped for autonomous flight.
Compared to the demonstrator, the new prototype has a specialised 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 more aerodynamic shape to improve flight performance.