Piaggio revealed Monday that its P.1HH Demo made an initial, fully remote flight from Trapani-Birgi aerodrome, Italy, last Thursday. The flight is hailed as a fundamental milestone that paves the way to the next phase of development of the HammerHead long-range UAV in preparation for operational readiness to be achieved by the end of 2014.

Testing had begun on Feb. 14 with a low-speed runway taxi, this followed on Aug. 8 by a short runway hop under remote control. Finally, on Nov. 14, in the hands of a joint team from Piaggio Aero and Selex ES, the P.1HH Demo took to the air for 12 minutes, proving the navigation system and verifying maneuvering capabilities in both manual and automatic flight modes.

The sortie was performed in mid-flap configuration with landing gear extended. The aircraft reached an altitude of 2,000 ft and a speed of 170 kts, flying up to 12 miles from its base. It is not in the full configuration represented by the mockup in the static display at the Dubai air show, being a flight systems testbed, rather than a surveillance equipment demonstrator.

“The success of the first flight test of the P.1HH Demo brings us closer to providing the first European-developed, state-of-the-art MALE UAS, capable of performing, at the highest technological level, aerial, land, coastal, maritime, offshore, COMINT/ELINT and electronic warfare missions,” said Alberto Galassi, CEO of Piaggio Aero. The company is 41% owned by the Abu Dhabi investment arm, Mubadala.

“We are proud to have been able to reach this result only two years after the launch of the program, and we look forward to completing this ambitious project that brings together the efforts of leading players in the aerospace and defense domain and will allow Piaggio Aero to gain a primary position in the international surveillance and security industry with the P.1HH HammerHead enter into service in 2015.”