Airbus has announced that the VSR700 optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) completed the fully autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) approaches.

This is said to validate its autonomy to and from a moving platform and for the advancement of VSR700 programme to provide a tactical unmanned aerial system (UAS) with ATOL capacities for the navies around the world.

The test used a landing zone that was a pitching, yawing platform mounted on a trailer for the simulation of the conditions of a moving ship deck.

In 2018, France’s Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) awarded a contract to a consortium comprising Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters for the technological development of the first demonstrator of a rotary-wing drone for a French Navy ship.

VSR700 programme head Nicolas Delmas said: “A primary challenge for any naval drone is to approach ships in heavy seas as its landing pad moves toward or away from it, on rolling swells that reduce or lengthen the relative distance.

“Flying in such conditions, the difference of a few centimetres can determine the fate of an entire mission.”

These trials are expected to be followed by the sea trials with the prototype, which is called Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM).

They will test the navigation, positioning, flight control and auto-pilot systems of the vehicle.

Delmas added: “Our programme has a step-by-step approach with quick development loops.

“This involves rapidly testing new functions with the OPV to get early feedback with a safety pilot onboard for emergencies, before putting these systems on the VSR700 prototype.

“Whereas the VSR700 prototype focuses on the development of vehicle performances, the OPV is primarily used to develop and validate the piloting laws and dedicated ATOL functions.”

In November last year, Airbus Helicopters’ redesigned VSR700 UAS prototype completed its debut flight.