The VSR700 uncrewed aerial system (UAS) performed 80 fully autonomous take-offs and landings from a civil vessel equipped with a helicopter deck off the coast of Brittany.

The original manufacturer and Blagnac-based aerospace company, Airbus, considers the successful flight time at sea a milestone in its journey bring the UAS into the French Armed Forces as its Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM).

Designed to operate alongside other shipborne naval assets, the VSR700 is still under development. The UAS will provides commanders with a situational awareness, search and rescue power, and a capable autonomous platform in times of heightened threats.

Its compact size and discreet silhouette enhance stealth, and its payload accommodates a host of long-range, high-performance sensors – the optimal capability enhancement for modern navies.

Head of the VSR700 programme at Airbus Helicopters, Nicolas Delmas comments: “This flight test campaign was an important step for the VSR700 programme as it allowed us to validate the excellent performance of the drone in operational conditions, which were representative of its future missions.

“The VSR700 prototype opened its flight envelope in winds above 40 knots, accumulated eight hours of testing in 14 flights, and made successful landings in several different sea states.”

In 2022, the autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700 were tested from the same vessel using an optionally piloted vehicle based on a modified Guimbal Cabri G2 equipped with the autonomous take-off and landing system developed for the VSR700.

This time the test campaign took place with the SDAM demonstrator and fully validated the capabilities of the system as part of the SDAM study that was awarded to Airbus and Naval Group in 2017.

The next development steps will see the second VSR700 prototype perform its maiden flight ahead of flight testing onboard a French Navy multi-purpose frigate during the second semester of this year.