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Falco Xplorer UAV makes maiden flight

Leonardo flew its Falco Xplorer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time on 15 January, the company announced.

The Falco Xplorer MALE UAV made its maiden flight on 15 January. (Leonardo)

The Falco Xplorer MALE UAV made its maiden flight on 15 January. (Leonardo)

The approximately one-hour flight saw the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV depart Trapani Air Force Base on Sicily before returning to the same location.

As noted by Leonardo, the Falco Xplorer, which combines endurance of over 24 hours, a maximum payload of 350 kg, and a service ceiling of 30,000 ft, will now embark on a series of flight tests to assess the aircraft’s full range of capabilities including its integrated sensor system.

Revealed at the Paris Air Show in June 2019, the Falco Xplorer is 9 m long, has a wingspan of 18.5 m, and is powered by a single Rotax engine. It utilises an evolution of the ground control system used on the earlier iterations of the Falco family, while the baseline sensor fit comprises a Gabbiano T-80UL multimode synthetic aperture radar that can undertake mapping and ground moving target indication, as well as a LEOSS gyro-stabilised electro-optic turret and a SAGE signals intelligence (SIGINT) suite. While weapons could be integrated, Leonardo has stated that this is not currently planned for the platform.

The Falco Xplorer is free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and compliant with existing Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) regulations, and can operate in segregated and unsegregated airspace.

Previously, Leonardo had told Jane’s that deliveries could be made to customers in 2020. However, a seven-month delay to the maiden flight may push this timeline back slightly.

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