Airbus Helicopters’ VSR700 unmanned aerial system (UAS) prototype has successfully conducted its maiden free flight.

The unmanned aerial system remained airborne for ten minutes during the free flight, which was carried out at a drone test centre near Aix-en-Provence in France.

The milestone follows after the aircraft conducted its first flight last November. In order to comply with regulatory requirements, the prototype was tethered to perform the flight.

Airbus Helicopters deployed a virtual perimeter function, geofencing, and a flight termination system to conduct the free flight.

Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said: “The free flight achieved by the VSR700 is a major step leading up to the sea trials that will be performed at the end of 2021 as part of the de-risking studies for the French Navy’s future drone.

“Thanks to the French PlanAero, the programme will make full use of two demonstrators and an optionally piloted vehicle to develop and mature the technical and operational aspects for successful UAS operations in a naval environment.”

Derived from Hélicoptères Guimbal’s Cabri G2, the VSR700 offers a maximum take-off weight between 500kg and 1,000kg.

The aircraft is designed to ferry multiple full-size naval sensors for extended periods.

It can also operate from existing ships, alongside a helicopter, with a low logistical footprint.

Last month, Airbus’s five-bladed H145 helicopters secured European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for its full range of capabilities consisting of single-pilot and instrument flight rules (IFR) and single-engine operations (Cat.A/VTOL) and night-vision goggle capability.