The French Navy’s frigate, Provence, recently conducted sea trials that have showcased the capabilities of the SDAM demonstrator, an advanced Naval Aerial Drone System (SDAM) developed through a collaborative effort between Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group. 

The successful tests highlight the system’s performance on an operational warship, marking a milestone in enhancing the French Navy’s future capabilities for surveillance and intelligence missions.

This naval drone system aims to improve surveillance and intelligence missions at sea.

The trials, which took place in the Mediterranean Sea between October 2nd and 9th, demonstrated the successful integration and operation of the SDAM on the Provence frigate. This achievement was made possible through the joint efforts of Airbus Helicopters, Naval Group, the French Armament General Directorate (DGA), and the French Navy.

In 2015, the French shipyard group DCNS delivered the FREMM frigate Provence to the French Navy. The FREMM frigates, measuring 140 meters in length and 20 meters in width, boast a displacement of 6,000 tons and can accommodate 108 officers and crew.

The SDAM is designed to be a versatile system to offer an initial operational capability by 2026. Bruno Even, the CEO of Airbus Helicopters, expressed his pride in the progress of the SDAM and its potential, stating, “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.”

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The frigate segment is anticipated to be the largest segment in the naval vessels and surface combatants market between 2023 and 2033. The frigate segment is expected to account for a 30.1% revenue share of the total market over the forecast period.

Pierre-Eric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group, also emphasised the significance of these trials, saying, “We have passed a significant milestone in terms of the complexity of the integration of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) on board a heavily armed vessel, both physically and operationally.” 

He highlighted the importance of integrating the SDAM into the ship’s combat system and its ability to expand the crew’s perception and treatment of threats in real-time.

The success of the SDAM trials is a result of a coordinated effort involving Airbus Helicopters, Naval Group, and several French small and medium-sized enterprises. The project aims to create a robust and sovereign solution for the French Navy, with the system working in synergy with other existing methods.

This collaborative project extends beyond just the technology itself; it is also contributing to the development of a local naval UAS industry in France. Companies like Hélicoptères Guimbal and Diades actively participate in this initiative, further bolstering France’s maritime defence capabilities.

With the potential to enhance the French Navy’s capabilities, this collaborative effort between industry leaders and local partners is paving the way for a more technologically advanced maritime future.