On 15 February, Leonardo not only opened a new manufacturing facility in Pisa, but also unveiled the AWHero production-ready version of its Hero multi-role rotary unmanned air system (RUAS). The AWHero will be the factory’s first main product.
The pre-production version unveiled last week features significant alterations from the original Hero, including optimised airframe and aerodynamics, a new fuel system, and a new liquid-cooled rotary engine. The 200kg-class vehicle also has a new composite tail rotor drive shaft.
The AWHero undertook a 10-minute first flight in December 2018, and a second pre-production vehicle is due to join the trials campaign in the next few months.
Certification by Italian military authorities is expected before the end of the year. The AWHero is due to take part in maritime surveillance demonstrations as part of the European Defence Fund’s Ocean 2020 initiative.
AWHero offers an endurance of more than six hours, and can carry a variety of payloads, including radar such as the Leonardo Gabbiano TS UltraLight, electro-optic sensors, LiDAR, and electronic support measures systems such as the Leonardo Sage. The vehicle incorporates deck sensor and autopilot modes specifically adapted for shipborne operations. Leonardo is developing considerable expertise in unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). The company’s Ronchi dei Legionari facility builds the successful Falco series of fixed-wing UAVs, and Leonardo has also built the 1,200kg Sky-Y MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV technology demonstrator. The AWHero complements the SW-4 Solo RUAS, which is an optionally manned adaptation of the 1,800kg PZL-Swidnik SW-4 Puszczyk light helicopter that was acquired when Leonardo’s forerunner, AgustaWestland, bought the Polish factory in early 2010.