Leonardo’s new Falco Xplorer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed its maiden flight from Trapani Air Base in Italy on Jan. 15, the company announced.
During the first flight, the drone, with serial number S/N0001, took off from the airbase cruised over the Gulf of Trapani in a dedicated fly zone, for around 60 minutes and then returned to base, landing safely.
“The maiden flight is a significant milestone that has been achieved through technical and engineering support, at the test flight planning stages and with other related activities, by the Italian Air Force Test Flight Centre”, said a company statement.
The unmanned aircraft will now embark on a series of flight campaigns that will assess the aircraft’s full range of capabilities including its integrated sensor system. These campaigns will also certify the Falco Xplorer against NATO’s airworthiness STANAG 4671, dramatically expanding the territory over which it can operate.
The Falco Xplorer Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS) was unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show. The new drone features a payload capacity of 350kg, more than 24 hours of flight time and a satellite communications (SATCOM) capability for beyond-radio-line-of-sight operations.
The drone has been designed to offer persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance to military and civil customers and can be procured as either an integrated system or as a fully-managed information-superiority service, flown and operated by Leonardo. With a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1.3 tons and an operating ceiling above 24,000ft, the aircraft is an affordable and potent option for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
The Falco Xplorer features a powerful sensor suite, which includes the Leonardo’s Gabbiano T-80 multi-mode surveillance radar, its SAGE electronic intelligence system, an automatic identification system (AIS) for maritime missions and an Electro-Optical (EO) turret. An optional hyperspectral sensor will allow the Falco Xplorer to monitor pollution and agricultural development. The native satellite link capability allows for beyond-line-of-sight operations, while its open system architecture means that third-party sensors can be easily integrated.
The Falco Xplorer is designed by Leonardo, from the aircraft to its sensor suite, mission system and ground control station, making the company a ‘one-stop-shop’ for unmanned capabilities. The advantages of this approach include the ability to offer competitive pricing and the ability to draw on knowledge and experience from across the business to tailor a Falco Xplorer package to the precise needs of customers, whether in terms of technology or commercial arrangements.
Not subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions and meeting the criteria for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) class II, Falco Xplorer is readily exportable around the world.
The new platform joins Leonardo’s successful Falco family of tactical RPAS. The original Falco was chosen by five nations, while its successor, the Falco EVO, has been chosen for the United Nations MONUSCO humanitarian mission and has been deployed for the surveillance research program of the European Union’s Frontex border and coastguard agency.
Today more than 50 Falco family RPAS are currently engaged in operations around the world, some being operated by customers directly and some being owned and operated by Leonardo on behalf of customers as a managed service.