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Airbus Helicopters and DCNS announced at Euronaval that they are joining forces to design the future tactical component of France’s Naval Aerial Drone (SDAM) programme. By pooling naval and aerospace skills and expertise, the teaming will address all technical challenges arising from the naval integration of the unmanned systems through the creation of a robust system architecture that can evolve and adapt to meet every need, according to the companies. 

For DCNS, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are the roving eyes of the battle system; their missions are overseen by each ship’s combat management system, ensuring increased effectiveness in real time in support of naval operations. Offering a genuine tactical advantage, a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV is an organic component of warships and augments the operational potential of naval forces. 

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 UAV, including the specification and validation of the payloads and mission data links. DCNS will also produce the UAV’s mission system, which will enable real-time management of its operations and allow its payloads to be controlled through the combat management system. Over the last ten years, DCNS has successfully overseen the French armaments procurement agency (DGA) and French Navy’s main aerial drone study and trial programmes, operating both on its own and in partnership. In the process, the Group has acquired know-how that is unique in Europe and possesses solutions for integrating aerial drone systems in warships or enabling them to operate on ships. These solutions have been tested at sea.

Under the terms of the partnership, Airbus Helicopters will be responsible for designing and developing the VSR700 UAV, as well as the various technologies needed for drones to perform aerial missions, such as data liaison, payload and a “see and avoid” capability enabling the drone’s integration into airspace. 

A versatile and affordable platform, the Airbus Helicopters VSR700 harnesses autonomous flight technologies that have been tested by the company through a range of demonstration programmes. The VSR700 is derived from a light civil helicopter, the CABRI G2 (developed by Hélicoptères Guimbal). (Photo: Airbus)

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