Telespazio and Piaggio Aerospace have successfully completed the first satellite-controlled flight of a European-built Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE)-class drone.
European spaceflight services company Telespazio is a joint venture (JV) between Leonardo, holding 67% shares, and Thales with 33% stake in the firm.
Telespazio and Piaggio carried out the flight campaign with a remotely piloted P.1HH HammerHead aircraft serving as the test bed.
The exercise helped develop and integrate capabilities to enable drones to safely operate in unsegregated airspace, beyond the range of ground-based radio coverage, called Beyond Radio Line Of Sight (BRLOS).
Conducted at Vincenzo Florio Airport Trapani–Birgi in Trapani, Italy, the flight campaign evaluated the efficacy of the satellite technology for a wide range of dual-use applications under realistic conditions.
In line with the objectives of the DeSIRE II European research project, the flights are led by Telespazio and jointly initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA)
The DeSIRE II research project will support standardisation and regulatory activities in the drone sector across Europe.
Telespazio has developed a two-way satellite communication network that was used during the flight campaign.
Control data from the ground station was transmitted to remotely operate the P.1HH aircraft and its on-board sensors and systems.
Information collected by the drone during the flight was returned to the ground station through the same satellite communication network.
The system made use of the Athena-Fidus satellite resources that are managed by Telespazio’s Fucino Space Centre.
The European MALE remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) will operate as an advanced remotely piloted air system for armed intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.