Hanga Talk

Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters Build the First Demonstrator of a Warship Rotary-Wing Drone

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.

The DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) has just awarded a contract for technology development in the field of rotary-wing drones to the Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters consortium. The contract covers de-risking studies ahead of construction of a future tactical helicopter drone demonstrator aboard warships. The demonstration project will lead to trials of the drone launch system, mission system, and airborne vehicle, conducted from a French Navy vessel.

The purpose of the contract awarded by the DGA is to identify, deploy and test the technologies necessary for the integration of a tactical drone-system capacity within a heavily armed vessel. It forms part of the preparation of the SDAM (Navy Airborne Drone System), with entry into service foreseen for the middle of the next decade on new Intermediate-size frigates (FTIs) and other French Navy ships.

Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters will be jointly responsible for the industrial project management and will coordinate wider input from French industry/sector. To this end, Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters will act as the program design authority and will have Hélicoptères Guimbal, Safran, Thales and ONERA as their principal subcontractors.

Based on an innovative, versatile, robust, and economical helicopter platform, the

34 Jan/Feb 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.

The OCEAN2020 team, which will be led by Leonardo, comprises 42 partners from 15 European countries. These include the ministries of defense of Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Lithuania, with additional support from the ministries of defense of Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Estonia and the Netherlands. European industrial partners


Indra, Safran, Saab, MBDA, PGZ/CTM, Hensoldt, Intracom-IDE, Fincantieri and QinetiQ. A number of research centers include Fraunhofer, TNO, CMRE (NATO) and IAI.

“We are extremely pleased with this result. The OCEAN2020 initiative has a high level of strategic and technological-operational value,” said Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo. “It is the leading technological research project dedicated to the very

Leonardo to Lead OCEAN2020 Program Leonardo was recently

awarded the

most important project related to the first European Defence Fund’s initiative, OCEAN2020, to boost Europe’s defense capabilities, issued by the European Union under the ‘Preparatory Action on Defence Research’ program. The competitive selection was conducted by the European Defence Agency and will be contracted in the coming weeks. The first operational demonstration will take place in 2019 in the Mediterranean Sea. The demo will involve Leonardo’s ‘Hero’ and ‘Solo’ unmanned helicopters, naval vessels, and systems from a number of partners, including Italian navy vessels equipped with Leonardo’s systems.

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