Airbus Tests Autonomous UAS Takeoff Capabilities At Sea

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Airbus Helicopters has begun testing autonomous takeoff and landing capabilities at sea for its VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS/drone). According to the company, the test campaign used an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) based on a modified Guimbal Cabri G2 equipped with the autonomous take-off and landing (ATOL) system developed for the VSR700. The VSR700 is being developed by the French Armament General Directorate (Direction générale de l’Armement/DGA) for France’s Navy as part of its Système de drone aérien de la Marine (SDAM) program.

“These tests in real-life conditions constitute a crucial step towards the campaign that we will conduct at sea with the DGA and the French Navy later this year,” said Nicolas Delmas, VSR700 program head for Airbus Helicopters. “Using the OPV, we have demonstrated the unique autonomous take-off and landing capabilities of the VSR700. We have also proved the optimal functioning of the vehicle and its command station interface on board a vessel in realistic conditions.”

150 autonomous launches and recoveries were completed during testing, which took place off the coast of Brest, France. In addition to demonstrating the ATOL system’s semi-autonomous and fully autonomous modes, the trials assessed the aircraft’s approach procedures before landing on the vessel along with the handling and maneuvering of the OPV on deck. The VSR700 flew for the first time in 2020 and is expected to offer a maximum takeoff weight range of 500-1,000 kg (1,100-2,200 pounds).

Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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