France’s Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) has 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 warship.
The deal will see the companies conduct a series of de-risking studies ahead of the construction of the future tactical helicopter drone demonstrator, which will be deployed on-board warships.
Airbus Helicopters is manufacturing the 700kg VSR700 drone system to provide its military clients with a suitable combination of multi-role performance, reliability and operating costs.
The contract will cover the identification, deployment and testing of the various technologies required for the integration of a tactical drone-system capacity within a heavily armed naval ship.
It forms part of the wider preparation for the Navy Airborne Drone System (SDAM), which is expected to enter service with the new Intermediate-Size Frigates (FTIs) and other French Navy vessels in the middle of the next decade.
The de-risking study will help select the major technologies for the SDAM, as well as identify the technical risks involved in initiating and realising the programme.
Naval Group president and CEO Hervé Guillou said: “We are proud to have been selected by the DGA together with our long-standing partner Airbus Helicopters to allow the French Navy to integrate aerial drone systems into its units and strengthen its operational capabilities.
“This study also allows us to structure a world-leading industrial sector in this field.
“Naval Group thus confirms its capacity for innovation and technical mastery of naval systems and its role of whole warship architecture in the aero-naval domain.”
Naval Group and Airbus will jointly carry out the industrial project management and will function as the design authority of the programme under the arrangement.
Hélicoptères Guimbal, Safran, Thales and ONERA have been selected to serve as the principal subcontractors for the two companies.