Four European companies, Elettronica, Hensoldt, Indra, and Thales have signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA), to combine their capabilities to support the medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone programme.

Designated European MALE remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), the drone programme of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain will be integrated with a future-proof intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) function.

The European companies signed the MoA, in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, to jointly offer a coherent ISTAR functional chain for the MALE RPAS comprising all elements ranging from sensors and computing to data processing and communications.

Hensoldt CEO Thomas Müller said: “The future operating environment of airforces will bring a variety of flying platforms into one force-multiplying network.

“The close cooperation of the various platforms’ mission systems is paramount to leverage the advantage of such highly complex network.

“The architecture of the new RPAS mission system must be in the hands of the subject-matter experts from the start, tailoring its development irrespective of single platform aspects.”

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“The future operating environment of airforces will bring a variety of flying platforms into one force-multiplying network.”

The four firms intend to combine their experience and technology expertise in defence electronics and mission systems that will help reduce the inherent risk of the challenging programme.

The team is open to entering a new cooperation with other companies to support the European MALE RPAS programme, which is managed by the European procurement agency OCCAR.

Indra executive director Ignacio Mataix said: “We are building industrial cooperation in Europe and preparing for a future in which defence investments will be mainly performed at European level.

“This alliance will pave the way for future large programmes currently being defined in Europe.”

On 26 August 2016, a Definition Study contract was signed with the European aircraft manufacturers Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault and Leonardo.

The Development Phase of the drone programme is expected to be launched next year.