Leonardo’s helicopter business (formerly AgustaWestland) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rotary-wing craft, and in recent times has brought its enormous experience in the business to the unmanned sector. At AAD the company is presenting its SD-150 Hero remotely piloted air system, while at the same time reporting growing and serious interest in the use of UAVs for a range of surveillance duties in Africa.
Hero is a 180kg UAV that has a maximum payload of 70kg. With a typical 30kg sensor payload, it can stay aloft for more than five hours, at up to 8,200ft altitude. It has been designed for operations from ship or shore, and can be powered by either petrol or heavy fuel engines.
Leonardo adopted a three-bladed configuration for the UAV, providing better hot-and-high performance from the 50hp engine than would be possible with a two-bladed main rotor. The blades fold back when not in use for easy transportation in a variety of vehicles. It has already been tested for transportability in an NH90 helicopter.
With many sensor types available, Hero can perform a range of missions in the civilian, military and security fields. A shipborne version could be used to significantly extend the electromagnetic horizon of a warship, while other maritime missions could be oil spill and pollution monitoring, anti-piracy patrol and monitoring fishing activities.
Hero uses a common ground station with Leonardo’s other rotary-wing UAS, the SW-4 Solo.
This is a much larger (1,800kg) vehicle that is an optionally manned version of the company’s SW-4 four-seat light helicopter made by the company’s Polish subsidiary PZL-Swidnik. Using an EASA-certificated manned helicopter as a basis allows Leonardo to accelerate testing efforts. Conversion from manned to unmanned configuration can be accomplished on the flightline in around two hours.
Leonardo has demonstrated the Solo to the Royal Navy, including operations from a simulated ship’s landing deck mounted on a lorry-towed trailer, and it took part in the Italian Blade multinational exercise, operating alongside and sharing information with Italian army helicopters. Next month the Solo is to take part in Unmanned Warrior 2016, a high-level demonstration exercise for unmanned maritime systems.