Falco prepared for system tests

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Italian avionics specialist Galileo Avionica is to start tests of the onboard systems of its Falco medium-altitude, medium-endurance, piston-engined unmanned air vehicle early next year, after completing platform qualification late last month.

The Falco has accrued more than 40h of flight tests at Galileo Avionica's Salto di Quirra range in Sardinia since its maiden flight in December 2003 (Flight International, 16-23 December, 2003). Flight controls were validated in September, says Lorenzo Fiori, general manager for Galileo Avionica. "The next stage is to integrate the UAV's electro-optical sensor suite, planned for July next year," he says. Radar installation for the vehicle, which has a payload of 70kg (155lb), will start in 2006, before delivery to the Italian army, which plans to use the UAV for surveillance.

The Falco has a cruising speed of about 90kt (160km/h) and is being targeted at parapublic organisations as well as the military. "Threats are no longer symmetrical, so the need of surveillance is a requirement for border protection agencies, police, maritime patrol guards and other civilian organisations," says Fiori.

The Italian parliament has passed a law permitting UAV flights in military airspace over Sicily and Sardinia, clearing the way for trials, says Fiori, who adds legislation on UAV access to controlled airspace will dictate civilian sales.

JUSTIN WASTNAGE / ROME