Leonardo opened its new facility today in Pisa, Italy, dedicated to the development and production of the AWHERO rotary unmanned air system (RUAS). The latest variant of the 200-kg-class aircraft, the pre-production model, made its first flight in December 2018 at Nettuno outside Rome.
The aircraft—which features a new fuel system, composite tail rotor driveshaft, and liquid-cooled rotary engine—is designed for land and naval operations across a variety of missions including maritime and border surveillance, homeland security, pipeline and powerline monitoring, environmental monitoring, SAR support, disaster relief, and damage assessment. It has a maximum endurance of six hours.
Available payloads include radar, electro-optics, electronic support measures, LiDAR, and advanced communication systems. AWHERO can be equipped with deck sensor and autopilot modes for fully automatic takeoff and landing from vessels. The aircraft will be used for maritime surveillance demonstrations aboard ships during the upcoming European Defence Fund Ocean 2020 initiatives.
The new Pisa facility will initially employ 60. “Unmanned systems are among the pillars of our growth strategy and we plan to become a market leader in this field,” said Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo. “I am very pleased to open this new facility.”