Leonardo has partnered with Heli Protection Europe to offer surveillance and reconnaissance services via the operation of remotely piloted air vehicles on behalf of civil customers.

It is understood that Leonardo has carried out missions for years using its Falco remotely-piloted air systems, providing surveillance data to customers.

According to a press release:

“The partnership is a move towards being able to operate aircraft like the company’s Falco safely in ‘non-segregated’ or civil airspace, allowing Leonardo to bring its ‘drones as a service’ model to a new set of missions. Falco aircraft can carry payloads such as electro-optical and infrared sensors, radars and hyperspectral cameras, making them well suited to missions including the monitoring of landslides, fires and oil spills and for modern farming techniques. 

Leonardo has provided surveillance and imagery services via the operation of its own fleet of Falco RPAS on behalf of customers for a number of years, including for the United Nations for its MONUSCO peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Under Leonardo’s surveillance contracts, as well as designing, manufacturing and maintaining the remotely-piloted aircraft, the company’s pilots and payload operators actually conduct the missions, providing and where required interpreting surveillance data for the customer.”

The companies say missions will include environmental monitoring, firefighting, humanitarian surveillance, migration flows, emergency response and border control.

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Nick Bowman

Hmm. What about a rent an Air Force company? No need for an expensive standing force; just call them up on your cellphone when things get sticky. There hasn’t been a mercenary Air Force since the Flying Tigers. The concept worked then…

(sorry – phone insists on capitalizing Air Force).

Daniel Baxter
Nick Bowman

That’s interesting; I didn’t know about Draken. They appear to be set up for training, though. I’m contemplating the feasibility of a combat force for hire – a modern day flying tigers-type outfit.


I do think that the UK should be making more use of drones for wide area surveillance as part of our UK Border Force activities to protect UK waters. Ships and boats still there to do intercepts and searches but drones could take a lot of the load in terms of situational awareness. For that though the requirement on number of drones would be known, consistent, and we would work them constantly and hard so out-sourcing to something like this Leonardo service where some of the running costs presumably goes towards funding a profit for Leonardo vs owning the assets… Read more »