Leonardo invests in Skydweller Aero
Leonardo has announced its investment in Skydweller Aero, a US/Spanish company specialising in large-scale solar-powered UAS.
The initiative will result in the development and deployment of the Skydweller UAS, a fully electric UAS capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance.
Skydweller will combine potentially unlimited persistence and range with the flexibility of an aircraft. It will be capable of operating from existing airbases around the world, deploying thousands of miles away to areas of high need, and remaining overhead for long periods.
Applications will include land and maritime surveillance, environmental and infrastructure monitoring, industrial geo-information services, telecommunications and precision navigation. During emergencies and disaster-recovery situations, the system will rapidly deploy to provide backup communications and direct support to first responders.
The Skydweller programme will see conversion of a manned platform to an optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) by integrating advanced autonomy algorithms and vehicle management systems. This will be followed by a second phase, culminating in the first production aircraft, designed solely for unmanned operations and hardened against a range of environmental conditions.
The first autonomous flights of the OPV is projected for 2020 and the first production model of the unmanned version of the aircraft is expected in 2021.
Leonardo will act as the prime contractor for commercial opportunities in Italy, the UK, Poland and NATO.
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