Leonardo’s Falco family of Remotely-Piloted Air Vehicles (RPAS) have together logged more than 15,000 hours of operational flight, the company announced.
The milestone was announced by the company at UMEX 2018, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) specialist unmanned systems exhibition.
Since its Maiden flight in 2003, more than 50 Falco family RPAS have been brought into operation around the world with five customers. While some users choose to operate the surveillance and intelligence-gathering platform independently, others opt for Leonardo to own and operate its own Falco aircraft and provide surveillance data as an air service operator.
This latter model is becoming increasingly popular, with a reference customer for Leonardo being the United Nations. Here, Leonardo has flown Falco RPAS for thousands of hours over its first four years of support for the organisation’s humanitarian MONUSCO mission.
As the Falco continues to evolve, the latest addition to the family, called the Falco Evo, is already proving to be a success, having been selected by two customers in the Middle East and Gulf region. The Falco Evo is the longest-endurance model in the family, offering customers more than 20 hours of flight time while carrying a payload of up to 100 kg. Falco Evo is capable of carrying a range of highly-capable Leonardo sensors including the company’s Osprey and Gabbiano UL (Ultra Light) radars and customers can also choose to equip the platform with third-party sensors.
Leonardo is the only company in Europe able to offer a complete end-to-end RPAS system including its sensors/comms, mission management systems and ground control stations.
Falco Tactical UAS
The Falco (English: hawk) is a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and produced by Selex ES (now Leonardo formerly Leonardo-Finmeccanica and Finmeccanica, originally by Galileo Avionica of Italy).
The UAV is designed to be a medium-altitude, medium-endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads, including several types of high resolution sensors. The system is not designed to carry weapons.
The launch customer, Pakistan, reportedly wanted the Falco armed, a request that Italy rejected.
The Falco UAV is 17 feet (5.2 m) long, 6 feet (1.8 m) high, has a 24-foot (7.3 m) wingspan and a top speed of 134 mph (216 km/h). A maximum altitude of around 16,400 feet (5,000 m) and endurance of up to 14 hours can be attained.
A larger variant, the Falco EVO, has a payload capacity of up to 100 kg and an extended endurance of up to 18 hours.
As well as providing the Falco air vehicle, Selex ES offers a range of sensors, including EOST 46 electro-optical/infrared turret, Gabbiano 20 multi-mode surveillance radar and the PicoSAR radar. The latter is a compact, active “e-scan” radar providing synthetic aperture radar imagery and ground moving target indication. When used in conjunction with change detection software, the PicoSAR can be a powerful counter-IED tool.
The Falco can also carry the SAGE electronic warfare suite for accurate direction-finding, classification and geo-location of emitters.