Dassault Aviation's nEUROn unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) successfully conducted a formation flight with a Rafale multi-role combat aircraft and a Falcon 7X business jet over the Mediterranean Sea.
The UCAV patrolled a range of several hundred kilometres over the Mediterranean during the one hour, 50-minute test flight, making it the first time in the world that a combat drone flew in formation with other aircraft.
Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier said the flight test clearly reflects the company's expertise in advanced technologies.
"Our skills in both military and civil aviation mutually enrich each other, enabling us to design exceptional airplanes suited for both the armed forces and Falcon business jet operators," Trappier said.
The test flight also involved two chase aircraft for photography.
The formation was very challenging, as the engineers had to plan ahead to take into account the risk of interference, including aerodynamic turbulence between the aircraft, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) with communications between the nEUROn drone and its ground control station, according to the company.
Launched by the French Government in 2003, the nEUROn demonstrator programme aims to help the European combat aircraft industry in the investigation and validation of complex technologies required for developing designs of the next-generation UCAV aircraft.
The technologies represent all mission systems, such as high-level flight control and stealth, launch of real air-to-ground weapons from an internal bay, integration in the command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) environment, and innovative industrial collaboration processes.
The Dassault-led programme was later joined by Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland, along with their related industrial teams, including Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Eads-Casa, Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and Ruag.
Having conducted the first flight in December 2012, the nEUROn demonstrator has since then carried out several dozen test flights as part of a two-year test programme.
Image: The nEUROn UCAV, Rafale and Falcon 7X business during a formation flight over the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Dassault Aviation 2013 ©.