The prototype of Airbus Helicopters’ VSR700 unmanned aerial vehicle performed its first free flight, following its tethered maiden flight back on November 8, 2019, to comply with regulatory requirements. The VSR700 prototype was a step change from Airbus’ optionally piloted demonstrator that first flew in 2017.
The first free flight for the VSR700, derived from Guimbal’s Cabri G2, took place at a test centre near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, lasting about 10 minutes. Airbus explains the flight, as opposed to a tether, leveraged geofencing (a virtual perimeter) to enable clearance from airworthiness authorities for free flight.
“The free flight achieved by the VSR700 is a major step leading up to the sea trials that will be performed at the end of 2021 as part of the de-risking studies for the French Navy’s future drone,” said Bruno Even, CEO, Airbus Helicopters. “Thanks to the French PlanAero, the program will make full use of two demonstrators and an optionally piloted vehicle to develop and mature the technical and operational aspects for successful UAS operations in a naval environment.”
Airbus describes the VSR700 as an unmanned aerial system in the 500 to 1,000 kg maximum take-off weight range, providing a balance of payload capability, endurance and operational costs. It is capable of carrying multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods, according to Airbus, and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.
Modifications made to the aircraft since its first flight nine months ago include autopilot software updates, as well as structural modifications and reinforcements.
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