Italy’s civil aviation authority, ENAC, has authorised the country’s CIRA aerospace research centre to test fly an optionally piloted variant of a Tecnam P92 Echo S light sport aircraft.

The one-year permit to fly will allow for a 32-flight campaign to be carried out by CIRA, where it will assess the necessary technology on board its Flying Laboratory for Aeronautical Research (FLARE) optionally piloted vehicle (OPV).

Testing will take place via the EU’s Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) joint undertaking initiative, under an ATM integration project for remotely piloted air systems (RPAS).

Funding has been provided for both the ground development and flight testing by the SESAR RPAS ATM Integration Demonstration effort, supporting CIRA and its partners in the project. Testing will be carried out near CIRA’s research centre in southern Italy, and a NOTAM has been issued by ENAC with the support of the nearby Grazzanise air base, the authority tells Flightglobal.



CIRA purchased the P92 in 2013 and requested the permit in 2014. It made all the required modifications to the aircraft, as well as developing the autonomous flight system.

Under the terms of the permit, a pilot has to be on board the aircraft in order to intervene if necessary, and it must be flown according to visual flight rules at a mandatory altitude and speed limits in accordance with the payload limitations.

The FLARE aircraft can also carry other payloads in place of the left cockpit seat. “As a matter of fact, FLARE will soon be used for validating satellite links for delivering in-flight meteo information services to personal aircraft in the framework of the AIRONE project funded by the Italian space agency,” CIRA says. “In future, FLARE will also be used for testing morphing wing concepts in flight.”