In advance of a prototype rollout slated for next year, the unmanned Airbus Helicopters VSR700 demonstrator performed a variety of flight patterns after taking off from a military airbase in Istres in southern France on Dec. 20.
"The purpose of the flight was to establish compliance with the demanding regulatory and safety systems necessary for future unmanned flight in France," the company said in a statement Dec. 20. "During the exercise the demonstrator performed a 30 minute flight successfully executing a variety of flight patterns before landing in an autonomous mode. The unmanned air vehicle was piloted and monitored from the ground station located at the base."
The VSR700 has been flying autonomously since May 2017 with a safety pilot as part of the VSR700 development program, according to Airbus. During that time, the company said it has "fine tuned" the aircraft's diesel engine and developed the automatic flight control systems to meet regulatory standards.
The VSR700 is designed as a light military tactical unmanned aerial system able to carry multiple payloads with an endurance of around 8 hours at 100 nautical miles. Initially, the system is to offer extended surveillance capabilities for navies in order to allow them to reserve manned helicopter flights for critical missions. Airbus said that the VSR700 is designed to complement manned helicopters on ships ranging from small corvettes to major warships.