Airbus Helicopters is moving ahead with its VSR700 project with the first fully autonomous flight test scheduled for 2018, the company told Shephard at Eurosatory 2018.
The first prototype of the rotary-wing UAV first flew in 2017 under an optionally piloted mode.
Airbus said that it will be ready for the first deliveries of the system in 2022 and the first customer will likely be the French Navy though the number of units required has yet to be defined.
The company is currently going through de-risking studies of the solution with industry partner and French shipbuilder Naval Group.
The UAV is a 700kg solution based on Guimbal’s Cabri G2 single-engine, diesel-powered helicopter.
Speaking to Shephard, Jean-Eric Vague, operational marketing at Airbus Helicopters, said: ‘This size is the best between operational and tactical missions…it is not too big to operate on ships.’
There will be a 100kg payload option on the UAV which could house both EO and radar capability. Exact payload solutions are yet to be defined but Vague said that the radar will likely be a rotating system, though it could be an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
The first roadmap for the VSR700 is to develop a system that is able to carry out ISTAR missions, however armament of the UAV is an option for the future.
The company will also have the option of providing the VSR700 for army land-based operations as it is able to be transported via truck.
In cooperation with Naval Group, Airbus is also offering a solution for the new medium-sized frigates tailored specifically to the requirements of the French Navy.
Airbus Defence and Space is to provide the ground control station and the UAV will have an endurance of up to eight hours with a 100kg payload for naval missions. The power system is a heavy fuel 155hp jet fuel or diesel engine.
The VSR700 has a length of 6.2m, height of 2.2m and a rotor diameter of 7.2m.