French Navy Proves UAS Integration with Combat System

 - January 13, 2014, 12:14 PM
Testers conducted sea trials with the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 aboard the French navy's L'Adroit offshore patrol vessel. (Photo: Schiebel)

France’s DGA defense procurement agency, the French navy and systems integrator DCNS proved the “functional integration” of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a naval ship’s combat system for the first time in Europe, according to DCNS. Following sea trials in mid-December, the DGA issued a permit to DCNS to fly the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 aircraft used in the testing, the company said.

Testers conducted the sea trials from December 9 through 13 aboard the French navy’s L’Adroit Gowind-class offshore patrol vessel, under the Serval 1 (shipboard reconnaissance system-light air vehicle) UAS program. The tests were designed to evaluate the performance of the DCNS-developed DIOD-A module, which was integrated with the ship’s Polaris combat management system to receive UAV sensor payload data in real time. A further aim was to demonstrate that the UAS interface with the combat system has no impact on flight safety, said DCNS, which announced the completion of the sea trials on January 10.

The Schiebel Camcopter S-100 is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) air vehicle with a maximum takeoff weight of 440 pounds (200 kg), payload capacity of 110 pounds (50 kg), service ceiling of 18,000 feet and more than six hours' endurance with 75-pound payload. Integrating the unmanned helicopter with a ship’s combat management system provides a “telescopic arm,” extending the ship’s operational capabilities beyond the range of its onboard sensors, DCNS said.

“Navies in Europe and around the world are expressing strong interest in offboard sensor systems,” the company said. “The sea trials have successfully validated integration of a VTOL UAV with a surface combatant for the first time in Europe, earning the technology a ‘sea-proven’ label and enabling DCNS to propose a complete range of solutions for UAS integration on board surface combatants.”

Separately, Vienna-based Schiebel announced that Selex ES for the first time flew its SAGE electronic warfare system on a UAS—the Camcopter S-100—on December 12. SAGE is a digital electronic support measure (ESM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) system that passively collects emitter data from radio-frequency (RF) sources “at a tactically significant range” to identify and geo-locate threats.

“Armed forces are facing the two-headed challenge of needing to be able to detect increasingly RF threats while having to operate under tighter budgets,” said Pete Forrest, Selex ES vice president of sales for electronic warfare. “With SAGE, customers have a sophisticated RF-detection and geo-location system available that they can operate cost-effectively on platforms such as the Camcopter S-100.”