Airbus Helicopters has begun testing the autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) capabilities of its uncrewed aerial system (UAS), VSR700.

The flight trials for the VSR700 were conducted off the coast of Brest in France and attended by experts from France’s Direction générale de l’Armement (DGA).

The tests were carried out using a civilian vessel equipped with a helicopter landing deck and an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV), which was equipped with the ATOL system.

During the test, both the semi-autonomous and fully autonomous modes of the ATOL system developed for the VSR700 were demonstrated, as well as the handling and manoeuvring of the OPV.

Apart from testing the ATOL systems, the campaign also assessed the VSR700’s approach procedures before it landed on the vessel.

The VSR700 UAS uses Airbus’ DeckFinder to enable autonomous ship deck take-off and landing in any weather conditions.

In addition, the test included a total of 150 autonomous launches and recoveries.

Airbus Helicopters VSR700 programme head Nicolas Delmas said: “These tests in real-life conditions constitute a crucial step towards the campaign that we will conduct at sea with the DGA and the French Navy later this year.

“Using the OPV, we have demonstrated the unique autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700.

“We have also proved the optimal functioning of the vehicle and its command station interface on board a vessel in realistic conditions.”

The test campaign confirmed the VSR700 to be compatible for naval operations, preceding an upcoming demonstration at sea onboard a French Navy frigate.

The VSR700 is being developed for the French Navy under the Système de drone aérien de la Marine (Navy Airborne Drone System- SDAM) programme by the DGA.

Airbus completed the maiden flight for the first prototype of the VSR700 in 2020 and expanded its flight envelope last year.