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HANGAR TALK UNMANNED News relating to unmanned aerial systems


Leonardo Invests in the World’s First Solar-Powered Drone Capable of Perpetual Flight with Heavy Payloads


Leonardo is accelerating the progress of technology and innovation in autonomous flight by investing in Skydweller Aero Inc., a U.S./Spanish start-up specializing in large-scale solar- powered unmanned air systems. The initiative will result in the development and deployment of the Skydweller drone, the world’s first fully electric unmanned aircraft capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance.


“As the key technological investor and partner of the project, Leonardo will broaden its capabilities in new power systems, autonomous flight, innovative aerostructures, ultra-light materials, and eco-friendly technologies to improve the company’s competitive advantage in the aerospace business for the next 20 years,” commented Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo.


Thanks to its unique features, Skydweller combines potentially unlimited persistence and range with the flexibility of an aircraft. It will operate from existing airbases around the world, deploy thousands of miles away to areas of high need, and remain overhead for orders of magnitude longer than current aircraft. This revolutionary platform will be used for purposes ranging from land and maritime surveillance to monitoring the environment and infrastructure, from industrial geo-information services to telecommunications and precision navigation. During


emergencies and disaster-recovery situations, the system can be rapidly deployed from distant locations to provide backup communications and direct support to first responders.


The Skydweller project builds on a proven and mature aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe in 2016. The first phase focuses on converting the aircraft from a manned platform into an optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) by integrating advanced autonomy algorithms and vehicle management systems. The second step of the project will culminate in the first production aircraft, designed solely for unmanned operations and hardened against a range of environmental conditions. Autonomous flights of the OPV are projected for 2020 and the first production model of the unmanned version of the aircraft is expected in 2021.


The system will comply with European export laws and will not be subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions. This will enable the aircraft to satisfy government and commercial needs around the world. Leonardo will act as the prime contractor for commercial opportunities in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, and NATO.


Development and construction of the aircraft will be carried out at the Skydweller facility in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. Leonardo Aircraft division will participate in development and engineering activities via a dedicated team.


list of approximately 400 air traffic facilities covering about 600 airports where LAANC is available.


LAANC Drone Program Expansion Continues


The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced two important expansions of the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for drone operators to obtain airspace authorizations.


Four airports – Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport, William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, and Newark Liberty International Airport – joined the


44 Jan/Feb 2020


Access to the service is provided through one of the FAA-approved UAS Service Suppliers. The seven companies listed below are the latest to enter into partnerships with the agency, bringing the total to 21.


• Airspacelink • Avision • Botlink • Collins Aerospace • Drone Up • Simulyze • Skygrid


LAANC, a collaboration between the


FAA and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry that directly supports the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace, expedites the time it takes for drone pilots to receive authorizations to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace. The service is accessible to all pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule (Part 107).


LAANC began as a prototype in 2017. To date, there have been more than 170,000 approved authorizations through LAANC. The program was expanded in July to provide near real-time airspace authorizations to recreational flyers. The program’s continued expansion further increases the ability of drone pilots to gain safe and efficient access to controlled airspace nationwide.


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