Sky-Y is a medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed, developed and financed by Alenia Aeronautica, Italy, for manifestation and research applications. It is the first European UAV to fly in the MALE category.
The UAV can be deployed for civil and military missions such as surveillance, ground monitoring, reconnaissance, fire control, detection and monitoring of boat traffic and signalling to shipwrecked mariners.
The UAV’s maiden flight on 10 June 2007 took off from the Vidsel Base in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle, enabling the demonstration of flight characteristics, search and rescue functionalities, manoeuvrability, acceleration, engine and propeller performance.
Flying at a maximum altitude of 7,620m, Sky-Y can provide its operators with real-time intelligence information through the surveillance of a large area. With automatic take-off and landing (ATOL), the vehicle can operate during adverse weather conditions.
Sky-Y features a 76cm steerable satellite communications antenna in the aircraft’s nose, which is used for transmitting real-time imagery and videos to a ground control station (GCS) or remote control station operator via a satellite data link system.
Sky-Y MALE UAV development
The development of Sky-Y began in June 2006. It was first flown from Vidsel’s Swedish test centre after 12 months of development. Alenia, later, focused on developing automated flight systems such as a collision avoidance system, automatic take-off and landing system, and a state-of-the-art satellite data link system integrated with surveillance sensor data.
In June 2008, the second demonstration of Sky-Y for examining the operational capabilities of the entire system (vehicle and GCS) was completed in Sweden.
The third flight testing took place in March 2009 in the Puglia region.
Sky-Y is constructed with carbon composites and serves as the test bed for the development of Molynx. The aircraft’s wing tunnel testing was completed in October 2006. Sensor integration and final assembly were performed at the Caselle plant.
The company also plans to develop a new demonstrator, which will be powered by a new, two-stage turbocharged 250hp Fiat engine. The advanced demonstrator is expected to cruise at a maximum altitude of 35,000ft to 40,000ft.
Sky-Y UAV navigation
The UAV can be controlled either manually from the ground control station or through the autonomous mode using an on-board mission computer manufactured by Quadrics. It is fully equipped with automatic launch and recovery (ALR) system software, which controls the aircraft to land safely in case of communication failure with the GCS.
Sky-Y is equipped with EOST-45 electro-optic, hyper-spectral and infrared sensors. The EO sensor converts light rays into electronic signals for capturing images, real-time data and videos. The EOST-45 is designed and manufactured by Selex Galileo.
Sky-Y UAV radars
The UAV is also fitted with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electronic support measures (ESM), and electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems. The SAR captures high resolution images of ground targets using modern digital electronics technology. The ESM radar aids the UAV to determine signals emitted from the surrounding radars or vehicles.
Fiat automotive diesel engine
Sky-Y is powered by a single Fiat automotive diesel engine. Each engine is equipped with a single-stage turbo charger and can produce up to 150kW of power. The engine is designed and manufactured by Fiat Industries.
Ground control station (GCS)
The processing, retrieving and storing of real-time data provided by Sky-Y will be carried out at the GCS. Alenia Aeronautica developed the GCS and remote operator station at its Caselle plant, while the satellite data link system is designed and manufactured by Quadrics. The UAV along with the fully operational GCS was displayed by Alenia Aeronautica in the Paris Show 2007.
MALE UAV performance
Sky-Y can fly at a cruise speed of 260km/h. Its range and service ceiling is 925km and 7,620m respectively. Its maximum endurance is 14 hours. The aircraft weighs around 850kg and its maximum take-off weight is 1,200kg.