By S.L. Fuller | June 21, 2017
Airbus Helicopters has begun flight testing its optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) demonstrator, the company said at the Paris Air Show. Designed for military use, the VSR700 is a rotary-wing tactical unmanned aircraft system (UAS) based on the Helicopteres Guimbal Cabri G2.
“We are pleased to have achieved this milestone only eight months after starting work on the OPV,” said Regis Antomarchi, head of the VSR700 program at Airbus Helicopters. “The OPV is able to autonomously take-off, hover and perform stabilized flight and maneuvers. It will help us mature the technologies associated to autonomous flight and confirm the suitability of the Cabri G2 platform for the VSR700, ahead of the first flight of the prototype next year.”
Airbus said this phase of flight trials with a safety pilot focuses on refining the automatic flight control system. This would eventually lead to flights without the safety pilot. Sea trials have also recently taken place, as the VSR700 is being developed for the French Navy.
“Passing this first step of autonomous flights with a safety pilot onboard allows us to validate the integration of Airbus Helicopters’ flight control system with the aerial vehicle and its specific engine installation,” said Bruno Guimbal, president and CEO of Helicopteres Guimbal.
The VSR700 uses a fully digital, multichannel flight control system. Designed by Airbus Helicopters, it features a “high level of redundancy.” The aircraft is also designed to carry a maximum capacity of some 550 pounds. Depending on the mission, Airbus said the drone’s endurance could exceed 10 hours. Along with at-sea operations, the VSR700 could carry out land-based intelligence, surveillance target acquisition and reconnaissance missions with its optical sensors and maritime/land radar.