Naval Group, Airbus join forces on warship drone tech

Defence contractors Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters have been awarded a contract to build rotary-wing drones for a warship.

The demonstration project will lead to trials of the drone launch system, mission system and airborne vehicle, conducted from a French Navy vessel.

The purpose of the contract awarded by the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) is to “identify, deploy and test” the technologies necessary for the integration of a tactical drone-system capacity within a heavily armed vessel.

The VSR700 drone system is being developed by Airbus Helicopters to offer its military clients the best possible combination of multi-role performance, reliability and operating costs.

The 700kg drone will draw from Airbus Helicopters’ expertise in certified autonomous flight systems and naval helicopters.

A campaign of autonomous flights was started in June 2017 using an unmanned Cabri G2 prototype to validate the integration of the flight control systems and the vehicle’s new engine system, opening the way for the first flight of the VSR700 in 2018.

“I would like to thank the DGA and the French Navy for the trust they have placed in the VSR700 drone which, thanks to the combined experience of Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group, is expected to play a crucial role in the aero-maritime operation theatres of tomorrow,”said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.