Airbus is expanding the flight envelope of its VSR700 optionally piloted vehicle (OPV), recently achieving forward speeds of 60 knots. The milestone comes following more than 10 hours of flight testing and a successful demonstration late last year of the aircraft’s fully autonomous takeoff and landing (ATOL) approaches to and from a DeckMotion moving platform simulator—a pitching, yawing surface, mounted on a trailer to simulate the conditions of a moving ship deck.
The small rotorcraft, derived from the civil two-seat Helicopteres Guimbal Cabri G2 trainer, is being developed for the French Navy for possible use as a Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (SDAM) demonstrator and is schedule for ship-based sea trials in mid-2022. However, it could also eventually find other applications including a variety of land-based military and parapublic missions such as resupply and search and rescue.
During the current phase of flight envelope expansion, different speeds and distances are being evaluated. “The objective is to test the aircraft’s reaction when flying in conditions it hasn’t encountered yet—speed, altitude or mass-wise,” explained Arnaud Mesnil, VSR700 flight test engineer. Engineers also are testing the boundaries of the ground control station and datalink platform for the aircraft. The prototype will be upgraded later this year with a complete mission system for additional testing.