Leonardo has completed the first test flight of its new Falco Xplorer S/N0001 drone aircraft from Trapani Air Force base in Italy.

The new remotely piloted air system (RPAS) combines more than 24 hours of endurance with a maximum payload of 350kg. It cruised over the Gulf of Trapani in a dedicated fly zone for about one hour and returned to the base safely.

Technical and engineering support for the flight was provided by the Italian Air Force Test Flight Centre.

A series of flight campaigns will evaluate the complete range of Falco Xplorer’s capabilities, including its integrated sensor system and certify the aircraft against NATO’s airworthiness STANAG 4671.

Leonardo has designed the Falco Xplorer to offer persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance to military and civil customers. It can be bought as either an integrated system or as a fully managed information-superiority service.

The drone has a maximum take-off weight of 1.3t, a top operating altitude of 24,000ft and serves as a potent option for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

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By GlobalData

Earlier, the United Nations and the European border and coastguard agency Frontex selected the previous Falco variants. Falco Xplorer’s design is based on feedback obtained from these customers.

The aircraft features a sensor suite, which includes Leonardo’s Gabbiano T-80 multi-mode surveillance radar, its SAGE electronic intelligence system, an automatic identification system and an electro-optical (EO) turret.

Falco Xplorer’s optional hyperspectral sensor will allow monitoring of pollution and agricultural development.

It also features the native satellite link capability that allows for beyond-line-of-sight operations and its open system architecture enables integration of third-party sensors.

The drone meets the criteria for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) class II and is not subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions.

In December 2018, Leonardo carried out the maiden flight of the C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft in a new baseline configuration at its Aircraft Division Turin plant in northern Italy.