Selex Galileo will imminently be ready to market the Evo long-endurance variant of its Falco unmanned air system, with all fully-autonomous flight modes expected to be verified by year-end.
The aircraft - a modified Falco, with longer wings, twin tail booms and extra fuel tanks, and capable of transporting three payloads during 18h flights at an altitude of up to 20,000ft (6,100m) - made its maiden sortie in July 2012 and has now completed a second flight test campaign from the Bulgarian air force's Cheshnegirovo air base.
Falco is in service with four Middle Eastern air forces, and Selex head of unmanned systems Fabio Pauluzzo anticipates interest from them in the Evo variant. As the aircraft design has been finalised, it would now be possible to begin production at Selex's UAV development and manufacturing plant at Ronchi dei Legionari, near Trieste, and finish certification in parallel, to make a first half 2013 delivery if required.
An "ideal system", added Pauluzzo, would be three Falcos and two Evos, which could be operated from a single ground station, also built at Ronchi and designed to fit inside a standard 20ft shipping container.
The Falco and Evo are key elements in Selex's product strategy; in addition to developing the Evo and a management system that translates the huge amount of data collected by such an airborne system into information directly useable by the operator, Selex has a keen eye on US and European progress towards new airspace management regimes that should open the way to civil use of UAVs, which so far have been barred from controlled airspace.