Air Platforms

European MALE UAV flies under satellite control for first time

23 May 2018

Leonardo and its partner Thales have conducted the first satellite-controlled flight of a European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE)-class unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The milestone, announced on 23 May, involved an unmanned Piaggio Aero P.1HH Hammerhead aircraft demonstrate the ability to be controlled using beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) ground-based radio coverage.

As noted by Leonardo, the Hammerhead’s ground control station (GCS) linked up with the Athena-Fidus satellite, which is managed by Telespazio’s Fucino Space Centre, to operate the aircraft, its onboard systems, and its sensors. The satellite link was also used to receive the data acquired in-flight.

The purpose of the test, which was carried out at Birgi airport in Trapani, Italy, was to evaluate the efficacy of the satellite technology for various dual-use applications under realistic conditions as part of the wider Demonstration of Satellites Enabling the Insertion of [remotely piloted air system] RPAS in Europe (DeSIRE) II research project that is led by Telespazio and jointly initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Defence Agency (EDA).

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