11 June 2019
by Luca Peruzzi
Leonardo will present the mockup of a new and more capable unmanned air system of the Falco family next week at the Paris air show, unveiled Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo presenting the new products and developments at a preview event in Rome. The third iteration of the Falco family of drones is expected to begin flight tests in the days following the air show with an iteration prototype developed by Leonardo at its Ronchi dei Legionari facility. To be unveiled and named during the air show, the existence of latest generation of Falco family became to surface in 2017, when Leonardo’s former CEO confirmed its development and named it as Falco 48 platform.
According to first official released information during the preview event, the new unmanned can be classified as a light MALE with a maximum take-off weight of around 1,250 kg and a maximum endurance of 24 hours. The maximum mission payload is of 350 kg, maximum endurance depending of on-board mission payload. No further details has been provided by Leonardo CEO during the preview, but according to previous few circulating data, the new Falco family platform can reach a maximum altitude of over 7,000 meters and presents a new larger and lightweight airframe with a new ‘V’ rear empennage structure and a new more powerful engine in addition to a new larger highly-positioned wings structure, and a similar to previous Falcos but more capable and higher undercarriage.
The new unmanned platform, which could be ready in 2020, has been identified by Leonardo’s CEO Alessandro Profumo in the same class of the Predator 1A and capable to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions, but with a completely new design and mission systems based on the latest technologies developed by the Italian group. No further details have been provided but Leonardo is expected adopting the newest generation of the SKYISTAR mission system, which family of system Leonardo has already been using on the Piaggio Aero P1HH Hammerhead project, as well as latest development in mission payloads including the LEOSS latest multi-sensor, high accuracy, 4 axis gyro-stabilised turret system with up to seven electro-optical sensors, as well as AESA and conventional surveillance radars including Gabbiano family for maritime applications, in addition to SAGE ESM and Spider COMINT lightweight developments and latest generation wideband communications datalink. Even if indicated by Leonardo representatives as an ISR platform, the mission take-off weight and wings-structure indicate a potential armed solution.
The current Falco EVO platform, which is already operational and currently being carrying out missions on behalf of the Frontex European border-protection organization with Guardia di Finanza’s customs police mission operators in the Central Mediterranean area from Lampedusa island, offers a 15 hours operational endurance and a maximum payload about half that of the new version.
Photo courtesy Leonardo