FARNBOROUGH, England — Work on an unmanned rotor-wing technology demonstrator is set to get underway following the signing of a deal between Leonardo-Finmeccanica's Helicopter Division and the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The previously unannounced deal was revealed by Leonardo-Finmeccanica CEO Mauro Moretti during a briefing with reporters at the Farnborough air show July 11.
The new work follows a Royal Navy contract for a capability-concept trial contract, which ended last year using a modified SW-4 helicopter by PZW known as the Solo. The Polish company is now owned by Leonardo-Finmeccanica.
Now, a second phase will involve the provision of a technology demonstrator, a company source said.
"We have important knowledge and capabilities in unmanned rotorcraft," said Moretti, adding it was "important" for the firm's Yeovil facility in England "that the MoD financed the development of an unmanned rotorcraft."
"We need the UK government to give us the opportunity to develop continuously new systems and platforms in the interests of Leonardo but also in the interests of the UK," he said.
The firm’s optionally piloted 1.8-ton Solo test bed was flight tested by the Navy with a "hands-off" pilot on board. Although landing on land, the test simulated landing on a ship’s deck as part of the work on the British Rotary Wing Unmanned Aerial System project. The platform is based on the light, single-engine SW-4 built by Poland’s PZW, which is now owned by Leonardo-Finmeccanica.
The platform is conceived to be used for unmanned surveillance roles or manned for rescue operations.
In Italy, the platform has been flown alongside an NH-90 and AW-129 in tests held by the Italian Army, which established a data link connection between the three platforms.
Andrew Chuter contributed to this story.