Leonardo has successfully completed the first phase of the Falco Xplorer flight test. Now the system is ready for the second phase of the campaign which will lead to the certification of the largest drone ever built by the company.
In the field uncrewed Leonardo has defined its strategy within the "Be Tomorrow 2030" plan with the aim of consolidating its leadership in Europe on the basis of a technological know-how that ranges from platforms, to sensors, to mission systems, to ground control, made even more solid thanks to collaborations in the main international programmes.
The Falco Xplorer is the first MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class system with entirely European technology, designed to guarantee the monitoring and surveillance of large areas of interest with high persistence times and with the ability to simultaneously use up to 350 kg of sensors. This is the latest evolution of the FALCO family of remotely piloted systems which in the Falco Evo tactical version is operational with numerous international customers and which has accumulated thousands of flight hours, including in civil airspace in various parts of the world.
The flight testing and certification activities of the Falco Xplorer took place at the Trapani Birgi military airport, with the support of the 37th Wing of the Italian Air Force which actively participated in the tests by providing all essential airport services - including assistance to air traffic, fire prevention and flight safety - with the aim of ensuring that the trials are carried out in total safety and in accordance with the provisions of the sector regulations. In line with the expected timescales, the Falco Xplorer performed all the scheduled flights, highlighting the solidity of the project and successfully completing the complex functional tests. In particular, the behavior of the aircraft in the various phases of the flight envelope was validated in the tests.
Now the system will begin the second test campaign, which Leonardo will carry out under the supervision of the Directorate for Aeronautical Armaments and Airworthiness (DAAA), to obtain the flight suitability certification according to the NATO STANAG 4671 standard. The The process envisages the completion of a series of flights of increasing complexity which will make it possible to progressively validate, together with the military authority, the most advanced capabilities of the system such as automatic take-off and landing, satellite communications for operations beyond the line of sight radio and the effectiveness of the entire suite of surveillance sensors, completely created by Leonardo. Among these, the LEOSS electro-optical turret, the Gabbiano TS-80 UL multimode radar, the Automatic Identification System for identifying and monitoring maritime traffic and the SAGE electronic intelligence system. Thanks to the open architecture and flexibility of the ATOS mission system, also from Leonardo, it is possible to easily integrate additional sensors or subsystems, even from third parties.
The certification will allow the Falco Xplorer to fly over anthropised areas, significantly increasing its ability to fly over portions of the territory and also to operate in support of public safety and civil protection activities. The Falco Xplorer is not subject to the restrictions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and complies with the criteria for the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) class II. It has been designed to provide both military and civilian customers with strategic surveillance capabilities and can be offered as an integrated system or as a service managed and operated by Leonardo.