This week at the 2017 Paris Air Show, Airbus announced that its Helicopters Division recent started autonomous flight trials of the VSR700 Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) demonstrator. You heard that correctly, the pilot is optional, and this helicopter is (or will soon be) autonomous.
Right now, the OPV can take-off, hover, and perform stabilized flight maneuvers, but the company hopes to fly the first prototype in 2018.
The light military rotary-wing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle is being developed jointly with Helicopteres Guimbal, the OEM behind the Cabri G2 helicopter that inspired the VSR700.
What is most impressive is that the company has performed the test only eight months after it started work on the OPV.
According to the company, a safety pilot was on board for the test, but the pilot focused on refining the automatic flight control system.
The autonomous chopper is built to carry more than 550-pound payloads and, depending on the flight, it could fly unmanned for more than 10 hours.