Airbus: the helicopter drone prototype performs its first autonomous free flight

Airbus Helicopters flew the VSR700 helicopter drone for ten minutes in a completely autonomous manner. The tests took place in France, near Aix-en-Provence.

For the first time, a helicopter drone was able to fly in the French sky for ten minutes in a completely autonomous way. Called VSR700 , the prototype designed by Airbus Helicopters was able to fly independently in a virtual perimeter located above a drone test center near Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France.

VSR700 prototype performs first autonomous free flight ...

This is not the prototype’s first flight, however. The aircraft had already made its first flight in November 2019. As part of the tests and regulations, it was connected to the ground  via cables. The VSR700 is based on the Cabri G2 envelope from the French manufacturer Guimbal. It is a real helicopter , light, two-seater, with a mass of 500 to 700 kg . Very economical per hour of flight, the device is very popular in its segment and it holds several records for its category.

Record autonomy

Transformed by Airbus into an autonomous drone, the helicopter is intended for maritime use for the French Navy, with the carrying of sensors comprising an optical ball and a radar. Based on a ship, it is intended for missions in the company of another helicopter. Its autonomy is estimated at 10 hours of flight with an hourly consumption limited to 15 kg of fuel, which is a record for this type of aircraft.

In addition to its substantial autonomy, the advantage of such a drone is that it does not require modifying the sensors usually on board helicopters with a pilot. In the next stages, the aircraft, which will be doubled with a second demonstrator , should expand its free flight perimeter and trials are planned at sea at the end of 2021.