Last week, Airbus Helicopters’ unmanned VSR700 made its first flight in the south of France. Based on the Guimbal Cabri G2, which was a piston-powered, 1500-pound ship, the VSR is powered by a Continental CD-155 four-cylinder, FADEC-controlled turbodiesel running on Jet A, and is intended for navies to expand their surveillance and search-and-rescue capabilities at a relatively low cost.
According to Airbus, the VSR, which was operating at the end of a 90-foot tether, “performed several take-offs and landings … with the longest flight lasting around 10 minutes.” The firm is working rapidly toward untethered flight at the test facility, followed by “envelope expansion.” Previously flown with a safety pilot aboard in 2017, the VSR is said to be “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 is a fully-fledged unmanned aerial system, capitalizing 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 program as we make progress on the operational demonstrator for the French Navy that will perform trials in 2021 in partnership with Naval Group.”
Airbus continues to modify the VSR from early prototype form. The current iteration 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.”