Leonardo unveiled its newest UAV design, the Falco Xplorer, on Monday at the Paris Air Show as the largest iteration of the company’s family of Falco tactical UAVs, at some two times larger than the Evo variant. Certification testing will start later this month alongside the Italian aviation administration and is slated for completion by year-end.
With an endurance of 24 hours and an operating ceiling of 24,000 feet, the UAV is categorically a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, but Fabrizio Boggiani, senior vice-president of airborne sensors and mission systems at Leonardo Electronics, said the company considers it to be a “high-end tactical system.”
Xplorer has a 1.3-tonne maximum takeoff weight and a 350-kg payload capacity—an allowance that at present will not be used to arm the drone. The UAV is not subject to the restrictions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations structure, so it is easily exportable, the company said.
Leonardo has been involved in the development of the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead UAV that is derived from Piaggio’s P.180 Avanti turboprop, but the program has faced challenges with its development, as well as at a company level as Piaggio is under special administration and its future is unclear.
The launch of Xplorer, therefore, represents a move by Leonardo to develop an organic UAV in this category, offering the platform itself as well as a series of sensor options for the design. “We are a one stop shop for this,” Boggiani told AIN. “We are fully in control of the design for this.”
Production is expected to begin next year, Boggiani noted, adding that the UAV is being developed to NATO STANAG 4671 standards, meaning it will be operable in all nations within the alliance. “Our goal is to have his flying in segregated airspace, but also to be able to operate in non-segregated areas as well,” he noted.
Additionally, Leonardo is open to offering the drone on a services basis, an effort that the company has been pursuing for some time now as it realizes the market potential for operators that do not want to invest in operating their own fleets.
The ground control system uses the same software as the other Falco models, so there is commonality across the family, Boggiani added.