The French Navy successfully tested a maritime drone from a multimission frigate, confirming its ability to operate automatically from a warship in rough seas, according to the country’s military officials.
The VSR-700 uncrewed aerial system (UAS) was developed as a demonstrator for the naval aerial drone system (SDAM) by Airbus Helicopters and Paris-based navy development firm Naval Group. The maritime trial was executed October 2-9 while on board the multimission frigate (FREMM) Provence as it operated in the Mediterranean, the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) said.
The UAS is an autonomous platform designed to operate with naval vessels and derived from the Guimbal Cabri G2 light helicopter. The FREMM had been adapted to operate the SDAM by Naval Group in order to demonstrate the UAS’ surveillance performance from an operational warship.
The Mediterranean trial was the latest in a testing campaign that began in March 2022, when the UAS underwent more than 130 landings on a civilian boat during difficult sea conditions. During the October trial, more than 25 engineers and technicians tested the UAS in a series of progressive scenarios, from taking off and landing to a flight that represented a tactical employment scenario integrated with the FREMM crew, the DGA said.
“The flights made it possible to validate the implementation of the drone in scenarios of increasing complexity and to demonstrate its ability to take off and land automatically in conditions representative of its operational use,” the DGA said in a statement.
The event marked a major step for the reinforcement of the French Navy’s future capabilities, said Pierre-Eric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group.
“We have passed a significant milestone in terms of the complexity of the integration of an UAS on board a heavily armed vessel, both physically and operationally,” Pommellet said.
Airbus Helicopters expects to offer an initial operational capability by 2026, said company CEO Bruno Even.
“We are proud to see that the SDAM and the VSR700 are maturing,” Even said in a statement. “Working alongside Naval Group and other local partners, we are building a robust and sovereign solution.”