Piaggio Aero has announced that its P.1HH HammerHead UAV, based on the Avanti business aircraft, made its first flight on 22 December.
Known as Prototype 001, the first aircraft flew from the Trapani-Birgi military base in Sicily, performing a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at varying speeds and altitudes that also checked out basic functions of the ground segment.
Project pilot Sergio Paloni, who led the flight test team, remarked: “We are very pleased with the result of the maiden flight. The aerial vehicle was seamlessly operated remotely, with no flaws experienced.”
For Piaggio Aero (Stands 05-A10, UM-21), the successful first flight was a major milestone to be passed.
“You can run more risk with a manned flight – there is a pilot to take control if things go wrong,” remarked CEO Carlo Logli. “With unmanned, you need a greater level of maturity.”
To provide that maturity, Piaggio Aero undertook trials with the manned HammerHead Demo aircraft, which tested the air vehicle’s systems in an Avanti converted to act as a testbed, allowing the systems to be trialled but with the reassurance of having a safety pilot aboard. The HammerHead Demo undertook between 40 and 50 flights in preparation for Prototype 001’s maiden flight.
The first flight marks the start of an initial trials phase for the P.1HH, which is expected to total about 150 flight hours and is due to be completed in the summer. While the first flight was conducted under manual control via the P.1HH’s datalink, the test team aims to begin automatic take-off and landing operations, as well as introduce an interim sensor capability in this first phase.
A second P.1HH prototype is due to join the test fleet later this year, and this will be used primarily to expand the capability into full autonomy and to test the mission systems.
Majority-owned by Mubadala, Piaggio Aero is showing a full-scale mock-up of the P.1HH in the UMEX exhibition. The company is working closely with Selex ES to develop the P.1HH, the Finmeccanica company supplying the vehicle management and control system, datalink and ground control station.
Piaggio Aero is also working with ADASI on a manned maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) based on the Avanti.
The MPA features extended-span wings, foreplanes and tails, among other modifications. The first prototype of this variant is scheduled to fly in the third quarter of this year, and may be ready in time to appear at the Dubai Air Show in November.