ROME — Italy’s Leonardo announced Monday the launch of a new 24-hour endurance surveillance drone, as it seeks to extend its Falco range of drones.
The new unmanned aerial vehicle, which will be unveiled at this month’s Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, will weigh slightly more than a ton and carry a 300-350 kg sensor payload, Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo told reporters in Rome.
The drone is the third evolution in the Falco family, which includes the Falco and the larger Falco EVO, which offers 15 hours endurance and half the payload of the new version.
“It overlaps with the Predator A [and] would be a new product for Predator A customers,” he said.
The name of the drone will be announced at the air show.
Experimental flights are due to start in Italy imminently, with the new Falco set to reach operational capability in 2020.
The European Union’s frontier protection agency Frontex is among existing customers of the Falco. In a service contract offered by Leonardo, the drone is flown from the Italian island of Lampedusa, with pilots from Italy’s tax police at the controls.
At Le Bourget, Leonardo will be displaying its M-345 jet trainer, which undertook 40 test flights in January and February ahead of planned certification by the end of 2019 and deliveries to its launch customer, the Italian Air Force, in the first half of 2020.
The firm will also be showing off the fighter version of its M-346 jet trainer, which has yet to find a customer but will be ready for entry into service in 2021, as well as its Hero unmanned helicopter, which it aims to certify by the end of 2019.
Another new platform in the works is the AH-249 helicopter, a larger upgrade of the Italian Army A129 Mangusta. With a prototype due by 2024 and deliveries to the Italian Army scheduled for 2025, the Army is now due to pick either Safran or GE for the propulsion supplier.
Leonardo has signed up to work on the new U.K.-led fighter program Tempest, though the Italian government has yet to commit. At his briefing on Monday, CEO Profumo said, “Time is passing — we hope the country joins the program.”
Asked about the announced fusion of United Technologies and Raytheon, Profumo said this: “In the U.S. we are second tier and the progressive concentration of tier one companies increases the value of second tier companies.”