Piaggio have achieved the first major steps in turning their distinctive Piaggio Avanti business turboprop into the Hammerhead medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle (UAV).
The video below shows the first take-off of the P.1HH Demo aircraft from Sicily’s Trapani airbase on November 14, shortly before the Dubai Airshow where the company had a large presence thanks to Emirati stakeholders, the Mubadala Development Company.
The demonstrator was developed to test the aircraft’s Remote Vehicle Control and Management System. It flew for just 12 minutes whilst being remotely piloted from a ground control station through line of sight communication from Trapani.
Despite the short flight duration, engineers demonstrated that the system could be flown by hand, albeit remotely and through the automatic flight control system. The landing gear remained extended and the aircraft flew out over the Mediterranean at 2,000 ft and 170 kts before returning to Trapani.
The Hammerhead design features a modified airframe in readiness for its UAS role, including a bulged housing on top of the fuselage to house a satellite communications antenna and removable outer wings to allow for ground transportation.
According to Piaggio, the new version will have an endurance of 16 hours and be capable of carrying a range of sensor payloads up to 45,000 ft. The company says the aircraft will be able to comfortably loiter at around 135 kts.
The aircraft is now on a path of development which should see it entering service with the Italian Air Force sometime in 2015.