France Wants Military Helicopter Drones; Tags Airbus, Naval Group to Lead

By S.L. Fuller | January 16, 2018
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EXPH-1705-45_(c)J.Deulin_Airbus Helicopters VSR700

Photo courtesy of Airbus Helicopters

The Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) is exploring rotary-wing unmanned aircraft systems. To do so, it has awarded a contract to a consortium comprising Airbus Helicopters and the Naval Group.

According to Airbus, the contract covers de-risking studies of a tactical helicopter drone, then construction of a demonstrator that can operate aboard warships. The demonstration project, Airbus continued, would lead to trials of the drone launch system, mission system and airborne vehicle, conducted from a French Navy vessel.


This program forms part of the preparation of the SDAM (Navy Airborne Drone System), Airbus said. Its entry into service is expected to occur in the 2020s. Airbus said the study would help select the principal technologies for the SDAM and help identify associated technical risks.

Naval Group has been working on naval integration of aerial drones since 2005, Airbus said. Since Naval Group is a European naval defense firm, Airbus said it feels the two companies complement each other.

Airbus brings to the project its VSR700 — a drone based on the Cabri G2, designed specifically for military application. The drone can fly for more than 10 hours autonomously with a payload capacity of up to some 330 pounds. The manufacturer is aiming for a maiden flight this year.

Both parties are responsible for the industrial project management, and they are to act as the program design authority. They are to solicit wider input from French industry, as well. Hélicoptères Guimbal, Safran, Thales and ONERA are principal subcontractors on this contract.

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