The French defence procurement agency, DGA, qualified the integration of the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 unmanned helicopter aboard the French Navy helicopter carrier BPC Dixmude (L9015).
The first tactical drones capable of vertical taking off and landing (VTOL) on a ship will soon be admitted to operational service. This is the first time in Europe that a rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be fully operational and connected to the combat system of a warship.
The integration of a drone was conducted by DGA (Direction générale de l’armement, Directorate General of Armaments) in close collaboration with the Navy, the Naval Group (builder of Dixmude) and Schiebel (manufacturer of Camcopter S-100).
After more than two years of operational experimentation, the modification of the ship was carried out by Naval Group under the control of the DGA on the occasion of its maintenance in the spring of 2019. In addition to the essential cables and antennas, a Workspace for drone operators was installed with a mission management console specifically designed to exploit live information gathered by the drone and enrich the tactical situation of the ship.
Three DGA centers contributed to the success of the tests:
– DGA Naval techniques (DGA Techniques navales) for the tests of the new landing deck, the direction of the test campaign and the validation of the integration of the ground segment integrated into the central operations;
– DGA Flight tests (DGA Essais en vol) for test flights;
– DGA Project Engineering (DGA Ingénierie des projets) for the instruction of the authorizations of flight.
The ongoing integration work of the Camcopter S-100 drone meets several objectives:
+ to rapidly propose an answer to the need for extended surveillance of amphibious helicopter carriers (PHA), to improve the security and the self-defense of the ship and to provide a support for the operations they lead (for example a landing of forces on the ground by landing barges);
+ prepare the arrival of the Marine Aerial UAV System (SDAM) on the one hand, by allowing the crew to apprehend the use of a tactical UAV and on the other hand, by developing a pool of skills (this category drone requiring specialist seafarers for its use and implementation).
The purpose of the SDAM (Marine Aerial UAV System) is to respond to the Navy’s complete needs and is currently undergoing a risk assessment study, notified at the end of 2017 to Naval Group and Airbus Helicopters. This study is to conclude with a test campaign at sea of a demonstrator in 2021 on a multi-mission frigate.
Schiebel Camcopter S-100
Schiebel Camcopter S-100 is a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) developed by Austrian company Schiebel.
The helicopter needs no prepared area or supporting launch or recovery equipment. It operates day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a range out to 200 km, both on land and at sea.
The S-100 navigates automatically via pre-programmed GPS waypoints or can be operated directly with a pilot control unit. Missions are planned and controlled via a simple point-and-click graphical user interface. High-definition payload imagery is transmitted to the control station in real time.
Using “fly-by-wire” technology controlled by redundant flight computers, the UAV can complete its mission automatically in the most complex of electromagnetic environments. Its carbon fiber and titanium fuselage provide capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations.
Dixmude (L9015) is a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship/helicopter carrier of the French Navy. She is the third vessel to bear the name and is the third ship of the Mistral-class. She was delivered to the French defence procurement agency on 3 January 2012.
Referred to as “projection and command ships” (French: bâtiments de projection et de commandement or BPC), a Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, and 450 soldiers.