Airbus has announced that the VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS) has achieved the first step in opening its flight envelope at low speed.

During the test flight, VSR700 demonstrator’s speed limit was pushed to 60k (more than 110km/h).

At the end of the test, the demonstrator reached an endurance of over ten flight hours.

With the latest milestone, VSR700 programme is moving closer towards providing the French Navy with a sea-demonstration-compatible UAS.

VSR700 programme head Nicolas Delmas said: “In 2021, one of our key objectives is to secure the flight performance of the future Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM) demonstrator, which will perform a sea trial mid-2022.

“This is expected to be achieved with two major campaigns this year.”

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.

After its launch in 2018, VSR700 underwent an initial set of tests. It is based on the Cabri G2 helicopter

Late in November last year, VSR700 performed fully autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) approaches.

In November 2019, VSR700 UAS prototype completed its debut flight. This test flight was conducted at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in France.

VSR700 programme flight test engineer Arnaud Mesnil said: “The objective is to test the aircraft’s reaction when flying in conditions it hasn’t encountered yet, speed, altitude or mass-wise.”

The UAS can operate alongside other shipborne naval assets and provide enhanced search and rescue capabilities.

It can carry multiple high-capability naval sensors for extended periods and provide a larger tactical picture to the commanders.