Despite some disruption from the covid-19 pandemic, Leonardo’s Falco Xplorer surveillance drone is moving towards military certification, with a schedule of flight activities planned for the second half of 2021.
“While travel limitations imposed for health reasons naturally slowed down activities last year, the Falco Xplorer team has maintained a great spirit and our people, our suppliers and our partners working together have continued to make progress towards certification” said to Arab Defence Journal Fabrizio Boggiani, SVP Airborne Systems - Electronics Italy at Leonardo. “We look forward to making more progress later this year with a series of flight activities as soon as the situation allows.”
According to Mr Boggiani, the Falco Xplorer occupies a unique niche in the market, combining a payload capacity of 350kg, more than 24 hours flight time and a satellite communications capability for beyond-radio-line-of-sight operations, all within a relatively light 1.3 ton maximum take-off weight (MTOW).
Of special importance to the Middle Eastern market, the Falco Xplorer has been designed for a global customer base, being both free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and compliant with existing Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) regulations, putting it in the readily exportable class II category.
“We have continued discussions with potential customers, mostly in a virtual setting, and the enthusiasm for the platform throughout the region remains high. There is a clear requirement in the Middle East region and beyond for persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance and our unique combination of high-capacity with relatively low size and weight makes Falco Xplorer a very attractive proposition. I’m looking forward to meeting some of our potential international customers face-to-face again soon, in the meantime we are keeping in close contact remotely” said Boggiani.
The Falco Xplorer successfully completed its maiden flight in January 2020 and embarked on further flights that year. During periods when employees were unable to move freely between sites and flight activities could not take place, teams of engineers spent the time analysing data collected during flights and working to refine and add additional functionality to the Falco Xplorer’s mission system and human-machine interface. Other lab-based activities have also been brought forward, taking place earlier than originally planned in order to recover some of the time lost due to pandemic-related issues.
Fabrizio Boggiani concluded with a note of thanks for Leonardo’s domestic partners, the Italian Air Force, who have assisted the certification process so far: “Our colleagues in the ITAF have been extremely supportive, especially considering the difficult global circumstances. I would like to thank them for their essential support in keeping the Falco Xplorer certification process moving forward.”