The initial phase of flight testing for Leonardo’s Falco Xplorer drone has been completed with success. The system is now prepared for the second phase of the campaign, which will lead to the certification of the largest unmanned aircraft ever constructed by the company, according to The Leonardo website on December 22, 2022.
Leonardo possesses the domain technology and expertise required to offer a complete uncrewed system, including the platform, sensors, mission system, and ground control station. This is outlined in the company’s “Be Tomorrow 2030” plan, which aims to consolidate the company’s leading position in Europe in the uncrewed sector. In addition, Leonardo continues to strengthen its position on this market by participating in a number of major international collaborative programs.
Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV
The Falco Xplorer is the first MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class unmanned system to utilize exclusively European technology. It is designed to provide persistent surveillance over expansive areas of interest and can transport multiple sensors weighing up to 350 kg in total. The Xplorer is the most recent addition to Leonardo’s Falco family of unmanned systems, which includes the Falco Evo. The tactical-class EVO is operated by a number of international customers and has accumulated thousands of flight hours in civil airspace and around the world.
Recent flight testing and certification activities for the Falco Xplorer were conducted at the Trapani Birgi military airport in Sicily, with the 37° Stormo wing of the Italian Air Force providing support. Throughout the flight trials, 37° Stormo provided all necessary airport services, including air traffic assistance, fire prevention, and flight safety. This ensured that the flight campaign was conducted safely and according to industry standards. The maturity of the platform was confirmed by the fact that the Falco Xplorer completed all planned flights on time and a series of complex functional tests. Validation was also conducted on the aircraft’s behavior in a number of flight envelope phases.
Leonardo will now proceed with a second test campaign, which will be supervised by the Directorate of Aeronautical Armaments and Airworthiness (DAAA). This will certify the Falco Xplorer’s “flightworthiness” in accordance with NATO standard STANAG 4671 and will involve a series of increasingly complex flights. Together with the military authority, the system’s most sophisticated capabilities, such as automatic takeoff and landing and satellite communications for beyond-line-of-sight operations, will be validated. Also evaluated will be the Xplorer’s sensor suite. The company’s baseline suite consists of the LEOSS electro-optical turret, the Gabbiano TS-80 UL multimode radar, an automatic identification system for the monitoring of maritime traffic, and the SAGE electronic intelligence system, all of which are entirely manufactured in-house. The Falco Xplorer employs Leonardo’s adaptable ATOS mission system, which features an open architecture that permits the integration of additional sensors, including those from third parties.
Once certification is obtained, the Falco Xplorer will be able to fly over populated areas. This will significantly increase its range and allow it to assist in public safety and civil protection missions.
It is simple to export the Falco Xplorer. It is exempt from the restrictions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and satisfies the requirements for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Class II. It is designed to provide strategic surveillance capabilities for military and civilian customers and can be provided as either an integrated system or a service managed and operated by Leonardo.
*Cover image: Falco Xplorer drone (Leonardo)