Telespazio and Piaggio Use HAMMERHEAD Testbed
Telespazio (a company 67% owned by Leonardo and 33% by Thales) and Piaggio Aerospace have successfully completed a flight test campaign to demonstrate satellite control of a European-built Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), Leonardo announced on 23 May. Using Piaggio’s P.1HH HAMMERHEAD as a testbed, the companies used Leonardo’s innovative, proprietary satellite-based solution to operate the drone safely in unsegregated airspace Beyond Radio Line of Sight (BRLOS).
Telespazio’s two-way satellite communication network was used during the flights. Control data from the ground station was transmitted to remotely operate the drone and its onboard sensors and systems, while data collected during flight was returned to the ground station via the same network. The system made use of the ATHENA-FIDUS satellite resources, managed by Telespazio’s Fucino Space Centre.
The campaign was conducted in Italy to evaluate the efficacy of satellite technology for various dual-use applications under realistic conditions. The campaign was entirely in line with the DeSIRE II European research project jointly initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Defence Agency (EDA) and led by Telespazio.
DeSIRE II (a shorthand label for the descriptive but longwinded title ‘Demonstration of the Use of Satellites Complementing Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Integrated in Non-Segregated Airspace – Second Element’) aims at developing and demonstrating the capabilities of RPAS in a BRLOS environment. The ongoing research project , which kicked off in April 2015, is supported by a significant number of potential end users, currently in Italy and Switzerland but attracting considerable attention from other European nations. Among these are the Italian Coastguard and the Guardia di Finanza, ENAC and ENAV (Italy’s air navigation service provider and civil aviation safety authority respectively), the Civil Protection authority in Italy, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the Centre d’Essais et de Recherche Entente pour La Foret Méditerreanéenne (CEREN) and European civil aviation organisations EUROCONTROL and EASA.
As the programme continues to unfold, end users will be directly involved in demonstrating the range of service capabilities the solution will offer for a variety of operational scenarios. This will include (but not be limited to) search and rescue, border control, law enforcement, fisheries control and environmental monitoring (to include fire prevention and monitoring) to name a small selection. Demonstrating provision of real time video streaming of data acquired by the RPAS for use at user facilities will be a major objective of the programme, as will that of near-real time or offline value-added services, using data from additional sources such as earth observation satellites or meteorological data.
Telespazio, as prime contractor for DeSIRE II, is supported by subcontractors Leonardo, Piaggio and E-Geos (Italy), with Aedel Aerospace, Viasat Antenna Systems and Skyguide (Switzerland).