The UK Ministry of Defense, through its departments responsible for procurement and future capacity development programs, awarded Leonardo a four-year contract worth 71 million euros (60 million pounds) relating to the third phase of the program for the development of a remotely piloted rotary wing technology demonstrator (RWUAS - Rotary Wing Uncrewed Air System). The program envisages the development of an advanced prototype intended for in-flight demonstration activities and called “Proteus” in the British defense environment. It is a central element in the Royal Navy's 'vision' of future aviation capabilities in countering submarine threats.
This contract supports the Company's strategic objectives for its Yeovil site in Somerset, formerly a British helicopter production center: expansion of its operations and, in addition, a center of excellence for remotely piloted vertical take-off systems for military use. At the international level, Leonardo is already at the center of several research and innovation programs in the field of remote piloted systems: air mobility, combat systems, anti-drone technologies, management of the related air traffic. The company has demonstrated its skills and abilities in the sector during important European exercises such as Unmanned Warrior, Italian Blade and Ocean 2020.
In the UK, Leonardo is a key partner of the Ministry of Defense and has already invested significantly in remotely piloted military capabilities in the country. In Yeovil, the skills in the helicopter field from the design and engineering point of view have made the site a reference also for remotely piloted systems. The company had previously carried out several research projects in phases 1 and 2 of the RWUAS program. Phase 3 will support and enhance these national design and technology development capabilities through the construction of a totally new prototype for demonstration flight activities.
Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters in the UK, said: “Remotely piloted vertical take-off aircraft will transform military capabilities and have applications in other fields as well, both in the UK and globally. This contract is an important step forward for us in this field and for the maintenance of unique engineering skills on the national territory ".
Based on the experience gained and the technology developed during the first two phases of the RWUAS program, phase 3 will see Leonardo engaged in the construction of a modular demonstrator weighing up to 2-3 tons. The dual RWUAS prototype will be able to carry out different types of missions in the field of defense and public utilities. These include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, naval missions, logistical support. The high load capacity and large volume, together with the ability to operate in difficult environmental conditions will arouse the interest of many potential users.
Most of the program, which benefits from all of Leonardo's expertise in the field from design to construction, will be carried out at the Yeovil plant. It will support and enhance core competencies and foster opportunities in high-value design and engineering. A group of 60 specialists will be dedicated to the program, with the possibility of being extended to 100 employees.
Phase 2 of the RWUAS program had benefited from the research and development activities initiated with phase 1 between 2013 and 2015. With phase 2, further research, development, analysis and testing activities took place, relating to aircraft technologies to vertical take-off and landing, within future operational environments, in the context of mixed fleets and more general defense capabilities.
Leonardo is the only company in Europe able to provide complete solutions through the design and development of all the elements that make up remotely piloted systems: platforms, sensors, mission systems, control stations and offers customers certified capabilities with risks reduced, highly effective and complete integration. The continuous development and integration of cutting-edge solutions in all domains of remotely piloted, autonomous and semi-autonomous systems and technologies is a key element of Leonardo's Be Tomorrow 2030 Strategic Plan.