Aircraft

Autonomous Airbus helicopter makes its first flights

Autonomous Airbus helicopter m...
The VSR700 demonstrator in flight
The VSR700 demonstrator in flight
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The VSR700 demonstrator in flight
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The VSR700 demonstrator in flight

Although Airbus' passenger-carrying autonomous drones may still be years away from reality, that hasn't stopped the aerospace company from getting an autonomous helicopter off the ground. A demonstrator version of the VSR700 Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) has recently made its first self-piloted test flights, with the first flight of the fully decked-out prototype set to take place next year.

In the flights that have taken place so far, the helicopter has successfully taken off/landed, hovered, and performed stabilized flight and maneuvers. A human "safety pilot" was in the cockpit in case the multi-channel automatic flight control system malfunctioned.

The VSR700 is being developed in a collaboration between Airbus Helicopters and Helicopteres Guimbal. The latter is the manufacturer of the existing Cabri G2 helicopter, which serves as the base from which the VSR700 is derived.

Capable of carrying a payload of up to 250 kg (551 lb) and able to stay airborne for at least 10 hours depending on the application, it is intended primarily for use by navies as a shipborne tactical unmanned aerial vehicle. That said, thanks to its various optical sensors and maritime/land radar, it could also find use in land-based military operations to carry out ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) missions.

Source: Airbus

4 comments
Bob Flint
Again a pilot on board to take over incase of communications failure...this is even more risky than the autonomous Uber cars with a driver to take over "in case"
S Michael
So answer this question... Why does any airbus or any other passenger carrying company what to be pilotless, or as they say unmanned. Especially the civilian entities. Cut cost, but put the passengers in danger. Transfer the liability to the software company, or "technical" glitches that can't be sued. Computers cannot, at least not now, can't make last minute decisions, like a human. Why does the navy want unmanned aerial vehicles. Maybe for long periods of time over a particular water area looking for subs. Maybe...
Dr-Zin
Just Amen to those responses, the "autonomous" is gittin filled fast.
Daniel Harbin
And can't wait for it to get hacked and used in a terrorist plot. AI and autonomous flight is the future but it will take time for the public, me particularly, to get used to them. And just as mandatory safety items such as seat belts in cars, one day there will be outlawing of human drivers.