HeliHub.com has become aware of a new prototype test flying with French manufacturer Hélicoptères Guimbal. The new aircraft is all white, and carries the French test registration F-WBGD in blue on the tail boom. On the tail fin, in the normal Guimbal style, is the serial number 2001 – “A Space Odyssey” to some, but the start of a new numbering series in this case.
All Cabri G2 helicopters to date have been in a series starting at 1001, with the 175th example recently delivered via distributors Cotswold Helicopter Centre to a customer in the UK with the appropriate registration G-TOOO.
Company President and CEO Bruno Guimbal told HeliHub.com that the new aircraft is an OPV (Optionally Piloted Vehicle) and the development aircraft for the VSR700 program. Run by Airbus Helicopters, VSR700 aims to develop an unmanned helicopter for a French Navy requirement, with DCNS partnering for the Navy integration work. Airbus Helicopters is leading on the autopilot and system integration, with Guimbal heading up the mechanical platform part of the project.
The prototype is a significant step towards the future tactical component of France’s Naval Aerial Drone (Système de Drones Aériens de la Marine – SDAM) programme. The work being done on VSR700 by Hélicoptères Guimbal is mostly funded by the French military procurement agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) . The Guimbal prototype is a heavily instrumented aircraft and to the casual eye looks like a standard Cabri G2 with plenty if black boxes inside.