The VSR700 is an unmanned aerial system being developed for the French Navy in partnership with Naval Group. This order (which also includes an for eight additional H225M CSAR helicopters for the Air Force) is part of a Stimulus plan to support the national aeronautical industry announced by the French government in 2020.
“We are very thankful to the French government for their support of the aeronautical industry through the Stimulus plan. This is a win-win situation as the aircraft fulfill a real operational need for the French armed forces and this order allows Airbus Helicopters to secure jobs and key skills in the medium term […] The VSR700 is also a crucial programme. It will provide the French Navy with a highly capable autonomous platform and it will pave the way for future unmanned systems within the Airbus Helicopters portfolio.”
Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO
Like the rest of the aeronautical industry, the helicopter industry has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 2020 saw the worldwide market decrease by 50%. The support of the French government will help secure 960 jobs during the next three years for Airbus Helicopters and its suppliers.
Designed to operate alongside other shipborne naval assets, the VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS) is being developed within the frame of the SDAM (Système de drone aérien de la Marine) programme for the French Navy. The VSR700 is an unmanned aerial system in the 500-1000 kg maximum take-off weight range derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2. According to Airbus Helicopters, It offers the best balance of payload capability, endurance and operational cost. It is capable of carrying multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods and can operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.
The first prototype of the VSR700 performed its maiden flight in 2020 and has recently begun expanding its flight envelope.