The Leonardo Falco EVO has been selected by the European Union's Frontex border control agency to explore the use of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for maritime border surveillance.
Leonardo announced on 6 December that a Falco EVO has been deployed from Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Frontex surveillance research programme to test its ability to monitor the EU's external borders.
"Leonardo was selected by the European agency under a service contract tender for drone operations for maritime surveillance across the Italian and Maltese civil airspace," the company said. "The current agreement provides for 300 flight hours and may be extended into a longer-term agreement."
For this demonstration, the Falco EVO is equipped with an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor; the Leonardo TS Ultra-Light (UL) surveillance radar; a beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communications link; an Automatic Identification System (AIS); as well as a communications relay suite. It is also equipped with a heavy-fuel engine, enabling the aircraft to conduct extended-range day and night-time missions (the UAV has an endurance of 20 h).
A special feature of this demonstration will be the Falco UAV operating in commercial airspace. For this, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) that authorises flights in the Italian and Maltese Flight Information Region's civil airspace, have issued a 'permit-to-fly' for the 300 h programme.
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