Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully flown off the new Gowind class OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel), L’Adroit, built by DCNS and handed over to the French Navy in October.
The S-100 successfully completed a series of flights and trials onboard the L’Adroit at the beginning of November, under the command and control of the French Navy. L’Adroit has been specifically designed to operate Unmanned Vehicles.
“With the unmanned airborne system it is possible to gather information without tiring the crew and without exposing the crew,” said DCNS OPV Manager Denis Menage.
During the four days of operation in the Bay of Biscay, the Camcopter carried out eleven flights and 89 deck landings using a harpoon developed by Schiebel. As part of the trials, the S-100 used its electro-optical and infrared sensors to identify potential threats such as small boats.
“This versatile and very capable UAV can fly a complex mission as planned, without any direct interaction from the operator it is fully automatic. Its positioning systems (a combination of GPS and inertial measurement) guarantee precise navigation and stability, necessary conditions for the accurate landing on a moving platform at sea,” a naval spokesman said.
Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System needs no prepared area, supporting launch or recovery equipment. It operates day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 200 km, both on land and at sea, Schiebel says.
The S-100 navigates via pre-programmed GPS waypoints or is operated with a Pilot Control Unit. Missions are planned and controlled via simple point-and-click graphical user interface and high definition payload imagery is transmitted to the control station in real-time. Using “fly-by-wire” technology controlled by a triple-redundant flight computer, the AV can complete its mission automatically.
Its carbon fiber and titanium fuselage provides capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations up to a service ceiling of 18,000 ft and, in the standard configuration, carries a 75 lbs/34 kg payload for over 6 hours.
Built under a DCNS-funded programme, L’Adroit was officially made available to the French Navy on October 21. It is a symbol of DCNS’s ambition to win a larger share of the markets for small- and medium-displacement surface ships.
Over the next three years, the French Navy will thoroughly test the vessel, designed for current and emerging maritime safety & security missions, including fisheries surveillance, drug interdiction, environmental protection, humanitarian support and search and rescue at sea.
With two crews rotating every four months, L’Adroit will offer a high level of at-sea availability, spending 220 days a year on operational missions.
L’Adroit has a length of 87 metres, an at-sea endurance of more than 3 weeks and a range of 8 000 nautical miles. With a top speed of 21 knots, the vessel has a helicopter flight deck and can accommodate UAV operations. It is designed for reduced crewing, with a complement of 30 and space for 30 passengers.
Innovations and capabilities of special interest to ship-based naval, commando and coast guard forces include a panoramic bridge offering 360° visibility, a single enclosed mast offering 360° sensor visibility, covert deployment of fast commando boats in less than five minutes and full provision for unmanned aerial and surface vehicles (UAVs and USVs).
DCNS first announced the Gowind family of corvettes in 2006. Since then, DCNS has enlarged the family to include four corvettes with lengths from 85 to 105 metres and displacements from 1 000 to 2 500 tons.
A variety of weapons can be carried depending on the customer country’s mission requirements. The weapon systems include: water cannons, 12.7mm remotely controlled machine guns, a 20mm cannon, 76mm naval gun on the forward gun deck, anti-ship missiles, ship self-defence system and electronic warfare suite.
In September it was announced that DCNS and South African maritime organisation KND had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the promotion, construction and sale of Gowind offshore patrol vessels in South Africa.
The purpose of the agreement is to win new offshore patrol vessel (OPV) contracts, first in South Africa, and then in other sub-Saharan countries.
DCNS has long held an interested in South Africa – in September 2008 it launched the Gowind design in South Africa rather than wait for the Euronavale exhibition in Paris later in October.
Following visits by DCNS and KND to each other’s facilities, the two naval shipbuilders quickly recognised the major benefits of forming a partnership. DCNS is trying hard to get into the South African market by offering the Gowind for the SA Navy’s multipurpose offshore patrol vessel (MM OPV, Project Biro) and strategic support ship (SSS, Project Millennium) requirements.