Europe’s Eurodrone programme has cleared a significant milestone, with the completion of its delayed preliminary design review (PDR) activity.

“The PDR proves that the initial design of the aircraft has consistently matured, paving the way to proceed with the detailed design,” prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space says.

Supporting work included “technical assessments and evaluations such as windtunnel testing to confirm the aerodynamic configuration, [of] the overall design to ensure demonstration of operational capability, and the validation of a fully representative digital twin”, Airbus says.

Eurodrone armed

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Twin-engined Eurodrone is in development for France, Germany, Italy and Spain

Originally scheduled to have taken place in late 2023, the review also involved major subcontractors Airbus Defence & Space Spain, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo, and Europe’s OCCAR defence procurement body, representing partner nations France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The Eurodrone programme will deliver a combined 20 operational systems to the partners, totalling 60 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft and 40 ground control stations. Once operational, the type will perform intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) tasks.

Airbus Defence & Space head of air power Jean-Brice Dumont says the CDR completion “shows a real joint effort and collaborative spirit from all industrial partners and the customer community to ensure European sovereignty and independence in this critical segment of unmanned long-endurance ISTAR capability”.

Work will now continue towards the programme’s critical design review, “which will represent the final step and closure of architecture and system design”.

A prototype example of the Avio Aero/GE Aerospace Catalyst-engined aircraft is expected to make its debut flight in 2027, with deliveries to commence in 2030.

Separately, a development of Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron TP remotely piloted air system (RPAS) completed its first flight in German airspace on 15 May.

“The German Heron TP RPAS represents a strategic leap forward in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, fortifying Germany’s defence prowess while fostering interoperability with our allies,” says Dr Daniel Gold, head of the Israel’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development.

“The system is equipped with means to conduct optical and imaging radar reconnaissance, while providing options for signals intelligence as well as maritime surveillance,” says development partner Airbus Defence & Space.

The Heron TP will deliver an interim operational capability prior to the Eurodrone system’s introduction.