France’s Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and the French Navy, Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters recently conducted successful sea trials of the Marine Aerial Drone System (SDAM) demonstrator integrated onto a multi-mission frigate.
The tests took place from October 2 to 9, aboard the French Navy's multi-mission frigate Provence, which was adapted by Naval Group to accommodate the SDAM system. The primary objective of these sea trials was to showcase the system's ability to operate effectively on a combat ship and its capabilities for surveillance and intelligence missions at sea.
The SDAM program, entrusted to Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group by the DGA, involved the design, production, and implementation of a rotary-wing drone system demonstrator for the French Navy. The system utilizes the VSR700 rotary-wing drone from Airbus Helicopters and the I4Drones mission system developed by Naval Group. This collaborative effort also engaged several French small and medium-sized enterprises, contributing to the creation of a sovereign sector for naval aerial drone systems.
The SDAM was designed to operate from a frigate in addition to the on-board helicopter, offering maritime surveillance capabilities. Equipped with a maritime surveillance radar, an electro-optical system, and an AIS receiver, the SDAM can simultaneously operate these sensors, providing an extended tactical situation for combat ships. With greater flight endurance compared to manned aircraft, it can extend the duration and frequency of surveillance missions.
Derived from the Cabri G2 helicopter from Guimbal, the VSR700 has a maximum takeoff weight of around 700 kg, making it one of the few drones in the world capable of carrying three sensors for simultaneous detection and identification missions. Its Deck Finder system allows for precision takeoffs and landings, even in challenging weather conditions and rough seas.
The I4Drones mission system from Naval Group enables the management of complex drone missions and interfaces seamlessly with the combat direction systems of targeted ships. This system streamlines mission preparation, payload implementation, and data exploitation, contributing to mission efficiency and increased interoperability between the ship and the drone.
The SDAM program signifies a powerful alliance between Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters to provide a sovereign onboard aerial drone capability for the French Navy's first-rate ships, enhancing their surveillance and intelligence capabilities.