Italian aerospace and defense giant Leonardo has confirmed the maiden flight of its new Falco Xplorer drone.
The Falco Xplorer drone is a Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS) that offers persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance.
It’s also the largest surveillance aircraft the company has ever built, with a maximum take-off weight of 1.3 tons and an operating ceiling above 24,000ft.
Leonardo has designed every element of the aircraft, from its airframe to its suite of sensors, mission system and ground control station.
The aim of this approach is to make the manufacturer a ‘one-stop-shop’ for organizations developing unmanned aircraft programs. Leonardo claims to offer more competitive pricing and tailored product options as a result.
You can watch a video of the maiden flight here.
The Falco Xplorer takes off
The Falco Xplorer’s maiden flight took off from Trapani Air Force base in Sicily, Italy, on January 15. The drone cruised over the Gulf of Trapani in a dedicated fly zone for an hour before landing safely back at base.
The operation was supported by the Italian Air Force Test Flight Center, where staff have provided ongoing technical and engineering support.
Leonardo says the endurance drone offers more than 24 hours of flight time with a maximum payload of 350kg.
It will now embark on a series of flight campaigns to assess its full range of capabilities, which includes an integrated sensor system. These campaigns will also certify the Falco Xplorer against NATO’s airworthiness requirements STANAG 4671 and expand the territory over which it can operate.
Persistent Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance
The aim of Leonardo’s new drone is simple: to provide persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance to military and civil customers and be both a powerful option for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
The aircraft’s sensor suite includes Leonardo’s Gabbiano T-80 multi-mode surveillance radar, its SAGE electronic intelligence system, an automatic identification system for maritime missions and an Electro-Optical (EO) turret.
The company says an optional hyperspectral sensor will allow the Falco Xplorer to monitor pollution and agricultural development.
A 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.