Leonardo has invested in Skydweller Aero Inc, a start-up specialising in the development of a new generation of unmanned aircraft.
The firm say that the initiative will result in the development and deployment of the Skydweller drone, the world’s first fully electric unmanned aircraft capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance.
Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo, said:
“As the key technological investor and partner of the project, Leonardo will broaden its capabilities in new power systems, autonomous flight, innovative aerostructures, ultra-light materials and eco-friendly technologies to improve the Company’s competitive advantage in the aerospace business for the next 20 years.”
According to a release:
“The Skydweller project builds on a proven and mature aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe in 2016. The first phase focuses on converting the aircraft from a manned platform into an Optionally-Piloted Vehicle (OPV) by integrating advanced autonomy algorithms and vehicle management systems. The second step of the project will culminate in the first production aircraft, designed solely for unmanned operations and hardened against a range of environmental conditions. Autonomous flights of the OPV are projected for 2020 and the first production model of the unmanned version of the aircraft is expected in 2021.
The system will comply with European export laws and will not be subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions. This will enable the aircraft to satisfy government and commercial needs around the world. Leonardo will act as the prime contractor for commercial opportunities in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland and NATO.”
Development and construction of the aircraft will be carried out at the Skydweller facility in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. Leonardo Aircraft division will participate in development and engineering activities via a dedicated team.