French naval defence group DCNS is joining forces with Airbus Helicopters to design the future tactical component of France’s Naval Aerial Drone (Système de Drones Aériens de la Marine - SDAM) programme. The system, dubbed VSR700, apparently replaces the TANAN concept announced by DCNS and Airbus Defence & Space for the SDAM mission at the last edition of Euronaval.
The combination of the two firms’ naval and aerospace expertise is seen as the solution to address technical challenges arising from the naval integration of the drones.The partners aim to develop a robust system architecture that can evolve and adapt to meet every need.
For DCNS, the VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) drone is an organic component of warships and augments the operational potential of naval forces. Over the last ten years, DCNS has successfully overseen the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and French Navy’s main aerial drone study and trial programmes, operating both on its own and in partnership.
DCNS’s role in the partnership will be to design and supply the entire warship-integrated VTOL drone system. DCNS will design and develop the solutions for the ship-based operation and integration of the drone, including the specification and validation of the payloads and mission data links. DCNS will also produce the drone’s mission system, which will enable real-time management of its operations and allow its payloads to be controlled through the combat management system.
The VSR700 — derived from a light civil helicopter, the Cabri G2 — has been developed by Airbus Helicopters with a view to providing the best tradeoff between performance, operational flexibility, reliability and operating costs.
Under the terms of the partnership, Airbus Helicopters will be responsible for designing and developing the VSR700 drone as well as the various technologies needed for drones to perform aerial missions, such as data link, payload and a “see and avoid” capability enabling the drone’s integration into airspace.
The French Navy has carried out sea trials with the Schiebel Camcopter S100 VTOL UAV on the L’Adroit Gowind-class Offshore Patrol Vessel, as well as the catapult-launched DVF-2000. DCNS has also tested an unmanned version of the UH6 Little Bird.