The French navy has moved a step closer to fielding Schiebel's S-100 Camcopter with its new Gowind-class offshore patrol vessel the L'Adroit, with the unmanned rotorcraft having completed flight tests from its deck.
A Camcopter modified with a Schiebel-designed deck landing harpoon completed 11 flights and 89 landings during a four-day campaign conducted in the Bay of Biscay in early November, the aircraft's Austrian manufacturer said.
"As part of the trials, the S-100 used its electro-optical and infrared sensors to identify exercise potential threats such as small boats," it added.
Schiebel Camcopter lands on the French navy's L'Adroit Gowind-class offshore patrol vessel
Other potential applications for the embarked unmanned air system (UAS) could include conducting costal patrol, environmental protection and intelligence-gathering activities, or supporting drug enforcement, anti-piracy and search and rescue operations, said Schiebel.
Offering a mission endurance of more than 6h, the S-100 Camcopter can carry a mission payload of up to 34kg (75lb) to an altitude of 18,000ft (5,490m).
"The fact that many navies seem to be focusing more on procuring smaller ships for future operations, coupled with the fact that indigenous manned helicopters are often too expensive, opens the door for UAS, such as the S-100," Schiebel sales director Neil Hunter said.
The French navy took delivery of the DNCS-built L'Adroit on 21 October, with the vessel now entering a three-year operational test phase. In addition to carrying the S-100, it will also be able to accommodate manned helicopters on its aft deck.
French navy interest in unmanned systems has also recently seen DCNS and Thales perform tests of an automatic landing and deck-handling system in the USA. Dubbed D2AD, the technology will undergo at-sea trials during 2012 using a Boeing H-6U Unmanned Little Bird helicopter.