High sea-state landings on a frigate by an autonomous rotorcraft unmanned air vehicle in 2011 could conclude a three-year contract awarded by France's defence procurement agency to state-owned French naval defence company DCNS and Thales.

Next year could see initial landing tests under the DGA contract that is for the design and demonstration of an automatic take-off and deck landing system that can operate in a range of weather and sea-state conditions. The contract includes automatic on-shore landings for the French army's tactical UAV programme.

Thales says it will use its UK Watchkeeper programme's automatic all-weather landing system experience and will "draw on the results of the [2005 DGA] joint forces [vertical take-off and landing] UAV study...[conducted] with the support of Boeing. Boeing will be associated with [the new contract]".

Developing the system under a co-contracting agreement, Thales will develop the landing system, the UAV and trajectory control.

DCNS will be responsible for ship motion prediction, the landing strategy and for securing the UAV on deck. In October this year DCNS automatically landed a rotorcraft UAV on a French frigate's flight deck.

Source: Flight International