Airbus, Naval Group successfully test helicopter drone on French Navy frigate


Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group, in collaboration with the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) and the French Navy, recently conducted successful trials of the SDAM demonstrator (Système de Drone Aérien Marine/Naval Aerial Drone System) aboard a multi-mission frigate (FREMM). 

These trials took place on the French Navy frigate Provence in the Mediterranean Sea from October 2 to 9, 2023, showcasing the system’s performance in an operational warship environment and its capabilities for surveillance and intelligence missions. 

“The flights validated the implementation of the drone in scenarios of increasing complexity and demonstrated its ability to autonomously take off and land under conditions representative of its operational use,” explained the DGA. 

The system demonstrator is based on the Airbus Helicopters VSR700, a helicopter drone deployable from warships. Commissioned by the French Navy, it is derived from the Cabri G2 light helicopter, built by Guimbal. The vessel, Provence, was modified by Naval Group to accommodate the SDAM. 

The SDAM program, awarded to Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group by the DGA, aims to design, produce, and test a rotary-wing unmanned aerial system demonstrator for the French Navy. The goal is to enhance the aerial surveillance, detection, and identification capabilities of French Navy warships. 

The VSR-700 demonstrator is already equipped with a maritime surveillance radar, an AIS receiver, and an optronic ball, providing comprehensive surface situational awareness over a broad area. 

Ultimately, the SDAM is expected to have a deployment range of approximately 150 kilometers (80 nautical miles) from the carrier vessel, an autonomy of nearly eight hours, and the ability to autonomously take off and land even in rough seas. The objective is to achieve initial operational capability by 2026. 

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