Airbus’ VSR700 robotic helicopter has efficiently accomplished sea assessments underneath operational circumstances, together with totally autonomous take-offs and landings in robust gale power wind circumstances, from a civilian ship’s helicopter deck.
UAV helicopters might seem like unusual toys, however they play a really critical and more and more essential army function, particularly at sea. Whereas many fixed-wing drones could be launched from plane provider decks or from catapults, smaller ships in tough seas haven’t got this feature, although a long time of expertise have confirmed how rotorcraft is usually a actual power multiplier for frigates and comparable vessels.
The newest sea assessments by Airbus Helicopters (previously Eurocopter), Marignane, and the French Armament Basic Directorate (DGA) marks the primary time the tactical VSR700 rotorcraft drone has been introduced collectively as a whole system and flown at sea in an operational configuration.
Beforehand, as a part of the French authorities’s Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM) research, the Autonomous Take-Off and Touchdown (ATOL) programs designed for the VSR700 have been examined at sea utilizing a modified pilot-optional Guimbal Cabri G2 small helicopter.
Within the newest check, the ATOL avionics have been examined within the VSR700 itself throughout 80 totally autonomous takeoff and touchdown operations. The Airbus DeckFinder system is able to taking off and touchdown on a frigate’s pitching flight deck to an accuracy of as little as 10 cm (4 in) with out the necessity for GNSS/GPS. It is simply as correct in zero visibility, due to a maritime surveillance radar, an electro optical sensor, and an Automated Identification System (AIS) receiver.
“This flight check marketing campaign was an essential step for the VSR700 program because it allowed us to validate the superb efficiency of the drone in operational circumstances, which have been consultant of its future missions,” mentioned Nicolas Delmas, Head of the VSR700 programme at Airbus Helicopters. “The VSR700 prototype opened its flight envelope in winds above 40 knots, amassed eight hours of testing in 14 flights, and made profitable landings in a number of totally different sea states.”
Over 40 knots, in response to the Beaufort Wind Scale, represents “robust gale” circumstances the place you are prone to discover waves between 23-32 ft (7-10 m) excessive, slight structural injury to buildings and slate blowing off roofs. Anecdotally, that is in regards to the restrict at which most human pilots, even the extra skilled ones, will refuse to take off. So it is no picnic.
Able to carrying a 220 lb (100 kg) payload, the VSR700 has a most takeoff weight of 1,543 lb (700 kg) and is powered by a single 15 bhp (11.2 kW) Thielert Centurion 2.0 diesel engine driving its 23-ft (7-m) rotor. Sporting a stealth profile, it has a cruising velocity of 120 kn (40 mph, 220 km/h), an endurance of 10 hours – practically twice that of a normal helicopter, and a service ceiling of 20,000 ft (6,000 m).
Its sensor bundle and small dimension enable it to hold out reconnaissance, intelligence, and surveillance missions in addition to anti-submarine operations, maritime safety capabilities, and rescue operations for frigates and destroyers.
With the profitable assessments aboard a civilian craft, the following section will contain a second prototype later this yr aboard a French Navy FREMM multipurpose frigate.
Supply: Airbus Helicopters