Airbus Helicopters and the French Navy have completed flight tests of the autonomous VSR700 drone using a Frigate in the Mediterranean Sea.
The sea trials tested the SDAM demonstrator (Système de Drone Aérien Marine/ Naval Aerial Drone System) on board the multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Provence during the first week of October.
The vessel had been adapted by French defense firm the Naval Group to operate the SDAM. The sea trials aimed to demonstrate the system’s performance from an operational warship and the SDAM’s capabilities for surveillance and intelligence missions.
The de-risking study for the SDAM program was awarded to Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group by France’s French Armament General Directorate, DGA (Direction génerale de l’armement). SDAM’s objective is to design, produce and test a rotary wing unmanned aerial system demonstrator for the French Navy.
SDAM combines the Airbus Helicopters VSR700 unmanned aerial system and the I4Drones mission system developed by Naval Group for the end-to-end management of drone missions at sea.
The VSR700 prototype is an unmanned aerial system is in the 500-1000kg (11,000 – 22,000 lbs) maximum take-off weight range. It is intended to be used for light tactical missions at sea including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare as well as search and rescue. The VSR700 is able to take-off and land from ship decks autonomously.
Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters “We are proud to see that the SDAM and the VSR700 are maturing. 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.”
Pierre-Eric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group said, “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. We have passed a significant milestone in terms of the complexity of the integration of an unmanned aerial system on board a heavily armed vessel, both physically and operationally.
“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. 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.”
Naval Group has also been tasked with the integration of SDAM onboard military vessels. The project also involves French SMEs like Hélicoptères Guimbal and Diades, contributing to the creation of a local naval UAS industry in France.