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Leonardo tests satellite-controlled drone
P.1HH HammerHead UAV. © Piaggio

Leonardo tests satellite-controlled drone

Leonardo has successfully completed the first flight campaign to demonstrate satellite control of a European-built MALE-class drone.

Leonardo reports that the first flight campaign to demonstrate satellite control of a European-built Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE)-class drone has been completed successfully.

A team comprising Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%) and Piaggio Aerospace carried out the activity using a remotely-piloted P.1HH HammerHead aircraft as the test bed, developing and integrating capabilities designed to enable drones to safely fly in unsegregated air space, beyond the range of ground-based radio coverage in so-called BRLOS (Beyond Radio Line Of Sight) conditions.

The objective of the campaign — carried out at Birgi airport in Trapani, Italy — was to evaluate the efficacy of the satellite technology for various dual-use applications under realistic conditions.

The flights are in line with the objectives of the DeSIRE II European research project, led by Telespazio and jointly initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Defence Agency (EDA). DeSIRE II will support European standardisation and regulatory activities in the drone sector.

Telespazio has developed a two-way satellite communication network which was used during the flight campaign. Control data from the ground station was transmitted to remotely operate the P.1HH and its on-board sensors and systems, while data collected by the drone during flight was returned to the ground station via the same network. The system made use of the Athena-Fidus satellite resources, managed by Telespazio’s Fucino Space Centre.

Leonardo says the trials represent a step towards the use of remotely-piloted aircraft to support public services, such as environmental monitoring, surveillance, and emergency management.

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