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Paris Air Show: Falco to enter commercial airspace

20th June 2017 - 11:14 by Beth Maundrill in Paris

Paris Air Show: Falco to enter commercial airspace

Leonardo is aiming to get ahead of anticipated regulations on the use of UAVs in civil airspace as its lines up its Falco UAV and accompanying services for commercial use.

As part of the approach the company has recently opened a new business unit within its airborne and space systems division, the air service operations unit, which will play a pivotal part of the strategy.

Speaking at the Paris Air Show, Fabrizio Boggiani, senior VP for support and service solutions, airborne and space systems division at Leonardo said, ‘The Falco is already carrying out missions but the usual domain is in the military and defence area. We want to deliver the same type of service not only in the military domain where the rules are different.’

Leonardo already flies its Falco UAV with the UN in parts of Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo. The future of the commercial business would see the Falco primarily focus on surveillance missions outside of the military domain.

‘We actually launched the idea [of starting a civilian unit] about 18 months ago when we were in discussion with the UN and they suggested this type of operation,’ Boggiani said.

The company is working with the Italian aviation authorities to achieve civil certification of the Falco which it hopes to be completed soon. The offering will focus on larger UAVs, with the Falco having a MTOW of between 500 and 650kg.

‘We will have some big boys flying over our heads,’ said Boggiani, ‘so we will look at setting up a safety management system.’

Leonardo has also spoken with the European Maritime Safety Agency about utilising the Falco in maritime pollution detection, this could require the addition of a hyperspectral camera.

The company is also looking to add a satellite link to the Falco though this is not necessarily because of its commercial pursuits, according to Boggiani.

The company foresees that other UAVs, including those from other manufacturers, could be operated as part of its commercial services offering however Boggiani said, ‘first of all we want to fly own UAV.’

The service will offer both Falco and Falco EVO models initially.

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