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DSEI 2023: Leonardo lifts lid on Proteus RWUAS

An artist's impression of the Leonardo Proteus RWUAS technology demonstrator, released at DSEI 2023. (Leonardo)

Leonardo's UK Helicopters business released at DSEI 2023 in London first details of the Rotary Wing Unmanned Aircraft System (RWUAS)design being developed by the company in conjunction with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), revealing a modular single engine/single main rotor multirole concept.

The 2–3 tonne RWUAS technology demonstrator, known as Project Proteus, is intended to provide evidence to inform the development of a future medium vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS for the Royal Navy (RN). As part of the MoD's overarching Rotary Wing Strategy, Leonardo is delivering Proteus under a GBP60 million (USD74.93 million) four-year RWUAS Capability Concept Demonstrator (CCD) Phase 3a contract awarded in July 2022 by the Defence Equipment & Support's (DE&S') Future Capability Group.

Working with DE&S, Leonardo is investigating innovative systems, techniques, and processes that could form part of the technology demonstrator's final architecture. These include the development of a full digital twin and additive manufacturing techniques to optimise trade-offs between capability, performance, cost, sustainability, and serviceability.

“We have an agile, outcomes-based contract that will complete in early 2026,” said Martyn Ashford, head of Future Programmes at Leonardo Helicopters UK. “It's a different way of working. We are not running conventional design reviews [but] running a series of monthly ‘sprints' with our ‘scrum teams' culminating in a series of system concept reviews every three months that measure the health of the programme.”

“We are entering detailed design for the airframe, we have architectured our flight control system, and we have defined most of the avionic systems required for the aircraft,” he added.

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