Tag Archives: VSR700

Stimulus plan

The French Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly, has announced that the Armament General Directorate (DGA) has signed an order to purchase eight additional H225Ms and a second VSR700 prototype. The H225Ms will be operated by the French Air and Space Force. The VSR700 is an unmanned aerial system being developed for the French Navy in partnership with Naval Group. This order is part of a Stimulus plan to support the national aeronautical industry announced by the French government in 2020. For Airbus Helicopters, the plan also includes an order for two H145s for the Sécurité Civile and 10 H160s for the French Gendarmerie Nationale.

H225M
France orders H225Ms and VSR700 prototype in support of helicopter industry

«We are very thankful to the French government for their support of the aeronautical industry through the Stimulus plan. This is a win-win situation as the aircraft fulfill a real operational need for the French armed forces and this order allows Airbus Helicopters to secure jobs and key skills in the medium term», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «The French armed forces are facing increasing and varied challenges and I am confident that the H225M, thanks to its excellent range and multirole capacity, will be an efficient and reliable asset that will enhance their operations at home and abroad. The VSR700 is also a crucial programme. It will provide the French Navy with a highly capable autonomous platform and it will pave the way for future unmanned systems within the Airbus Helicopters portfolio».

Like the rest of the aeronautical industry, the helicopter industry has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 2020 saw the worldwide market decrease by 50%. The support of the French government will help secure 960 jobs during the next three years for Airbus Helicopters and its suppliers.

These contracts will benefit the French helicopter industry as a whole, including other key French aerospace providers such as Safran Helicopters Engines with the H225M’s Makila 2A engines, Safran Power Units with the Saphir 20 auxiliary power unit, Safran Electronic Defense with the electro-optical system Euroflir 410M NG and the Sigma inertial navigation system, and Thales with the VUHF radio TRA6034 and IFF transponder TSC4000. But with more than 300 French Tier 1 suppliers involved in the H225M’s supply chain, the contract will also benefit a variety of small and medium enterprises. The VSR700 is based on the Cabri G2 light helicopter built by local SME Hélicoptères Guimbal.

First deliveries of the H225Ms are planned to start in 2024 and will fulfill the Air and Space Force’s operational needs and the long awaited replacement of the Puma fleet.

Thanks to a modular and versatile configuration allowing the integration of diverse equipment, the aircraft will be dedicated to a wide range of military missions including combat/search and rescue, medical evacuation, support to the population in times of crisis, and tactical training. While based in the Air and Space Force’s Cazaux base in Southwest France, the helicopters will be deployed across the country and will also support the French armed forces’ operations overseas.

With more than 104 helicopters in service and more than 143,000 flight hours accumulated to date, the H225M is a recognized combat-proven, versatile and reliable workhorse for military missions worldwide. Among the essential operational advantages offered by the 11-tonne helicopter is the in-flight refueling capacity, already tested by the French and Brazilian air forces.

Designed to operate alongside other shipborne naval assets, the VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS) is being developed within the frame of the SDAM (Système de drone aérien de la Marine) programme for the French Navy. The VSR700, derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, is an unmanned aerial system in the 500-1000 kg maximum take-off weight range. It offers the best balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost. It is capable of carrying multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

The first prototype of the VSR700 performed its maiden flight in 2020 and has recently begun expanding its flight envelope.

First free flight

The prototype of Airbus Helicopters’ VSR700 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has performed its first free flight on 28 July 2020. The VSR700 performed a ten-minute flight at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France.

VSR700 prototype performs first autonomous free flight

This is a significant step in the programme following the first flight in November 2019 when the prototype was tethered to comply with regulatory requirements. To enable this free flight, Airbus Helicopters implemented geofencing, a virtual perimeter, which enabled and justified a flight clearance from airworthiness authorities for free flight. The flight test programme will now evolve to progressively open the flight envelope.

«The free flight achieved by the VSR700 is a major step leading up to the sea trials that will be performed at the end of 2021 as part of the de-risking studies for the French Navy’s future drone», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «Thanks to the French PlanAero, the programme will make full use of two demonstrators and an optionally piloted vehicle to develop and mature the technical and operational aspects for successful UAS operations in a naval environment».

The VSR700, derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, is an unmanned aerial system in the 500-1000 kg/1102-2204 lbs. maximum take-off weight range. It offers the best balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost. It is capable of carrying multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

This VSR700 prototype has evolved over the last nine months since its maiden flight. The programme implemented the geofencing function, as well as a Flight Termination System allowing the mission to be ended if necessary. Modifications have equally been performed to the air vehicle, alongside autopilot software evolutions and updates, as well as structural modifications and reinforcements.

 

Technical Data

Length 6.2 m/19.6 feet
Height 2.28 m/7.4 feet
Main rotor diameter 7.2 m/23.5 feet
Endurance Over 10 hours; 8 hours with full tactical load
Payloads (100 kg/220.5 lbs.) Rapid role change, multiple payloads: Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR), Radar, Communications Intelligence (COMINT), Automatic Identification System (AIS), etc.
Maximum speed 120 knots/185 km/h
Ceiling 6,000 m/20,000 feet
Propulsion Aviation Certified Engine; Diesel fuel and Jet fuel
Maximum takeoff weight 700 kg/1,543 lbs.
Maximum wind for takeoff & landing 45 knots/80 km/h (in all directions)

 

First flight

The prototype of Airbus Helicopters’ VSR700 unmanned aerial system has performed its first flight at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. The VSR700 performed several take-offs and landings on Friday 8th of November with the longest flight lasting around 10 minutes.

VSR700 prototype performs first flight

In accordance with the airworthiness authority that provided the flight clearance, the VSR700 was tethered with 30-metre/98-foot cables to fully secure the flight test zone. The subsequent phases of the flight test programme will now evolve towards free flight, and then progressively open the flight envelope.

«The VSR700 is a fully-fledged unmanned aerial system, capitalising on Airbus Helicopters’ extensive experience of advanced autopilot systems and engineering expertise to provide modern militaries with new capabilities», said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. «This first flight of the VSR700 prototype is a major milestone for the programme as we make progress on the operational demonstrator for the French Navy that will perform trials in 2021 in partnership with Naval Group».

The VSR700, derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, is an unmanned aerial system in the 500-1000 kg/1,102-2,204 lbs. maximum take-off weight range. It offers the best balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost. It is capable of carrying multiple full size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate in existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

The VSR700 prototype which has just performed its maiden flight is a step change from the optionally piloted demonstrator that first flew in 2017 and which was based on a modified Cabri G2 equipped for autonomous flight. Compared to the demonstrator, the VSR700 prototype has a specialized set of avionics and an advanced flight control system, a payload bay in place of the pilot station designed to manage mission equipment, as well as a sleeker, more aerodynamic shape to improve flight performance.

Naval Aerial Drone

DCNS, a world leader in naval defence, and Airbus Helicopters, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer, are joining forces to design the future tactical component of France’s Naval Aerial Drone (Système de Drones Aériens de la Marine – SDAM) programme. By pooling naval and aerospace skills and expertise, the teaming of DCNS and Airbus Helicopters will be equipped to address all technical challenges arising from the naval integration of the drones through the creation of a robust system architecture that can evolve and adapt to meet every need.

DCNS and Airbus Helicopters join forces to design the French Navy’s future tactical VTOL drone system
DCNS and Airbus Helicopters join forces to design the French Navy’s future tactical VTOL drone system

For DCNS, drones are the roving eyes of the battle system; their missions are overseen by each ship’s combat management system, ensuring increased effectiveness in real time in support of naval operations. Offering a genuine tactical advantage, the VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) drone is an organic component of warships and augments the operational potential of naval forces.

DCNS CEO Hervé Guillou said: «We will continue to innovate in these areas and give drones the capability to perform increasingly complex missions over greater distances and timeframes in an interoperable environment with increased digitalisation of resources. Such digitalisation hinges on the roll-out of cybersecurity solutions that offer better protection of data and communications between drones and ships».

DCNS’s role in the partnership will be to design and supply the entire warship-integrated VTOL drone system. DCNS will design and develop the solutions for the ship-based operation and integration of the drone, including the specification and validation of the payloads and mission data links. DCNS will also produce the drone’s mission system, which will enable real-time management of its operations and allow its payloads to be controlled through the combat management system.

Over the last ten years, DCNS has successfully overseen the French armaments procurement agency (DGA) and French Navy’s main aerial drone study and trial programs, operating both on its own and in partnership. In the process, the Group has acquired know-how that is unique in Europe and possesses solutions for integrating aerial drone systems in warships or enabling them to operate on ships. These solutions have been tested at sea.

A versatile and affordable platform, the VSR700 has been developed by Airbus Helicopters with a view to providing military customers with a solution that leverages a tried and tested civil aircraft and strikes the best possible balance between performance, operational flexibility, reliability and operating costs. Harnessing autonomous flight technologies that have been tested by Airbus Helicopters through a range of demonstration programs, the VSR700 is derived from a light civil helicopter, the Cabri G2 (developed by the company Hélicoptères Guimbal), which has proven its reliability and low operating costs in service.

Under the terms of the partnership, Airbus Helicopters will be responsible for designing and developing the VSR700 drone as well as the various technologies needed for drones to perform aerial missions, such as data liaison, payload and a “see and avoid” capability enabling the drone’s integration into airspace.

«Rotary-wing drones will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s air/sea theatres of operation, performing the role of a roving eye and extending the coverage of surface vessels over the horizon», said Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury. «This partnership will see Airbus Helicopters pool its expertise in vertical flight and autonomous flight technologies with the skills DCNS possesses in naval combat systems, allowing us to respond to the emerging needs of our customers».

Thanks to the VSR700’s specifications, the system boasts superior endurance and payload performance to any comparable system used to date. The device offers big capability with a small size and logistics footprint, resulting in less maintenance and straight forward integration to a broad range of surface vessels.