Piaggio has launched into the unmanned air vehicle market with the unveiling of its P.1HH Hammerhead, a pilot-less intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance variant of its distinctive Avanti II twin-pusher business turboprop.

The Italian manufacturer designed and built the demonstrator on show at Paris in less than a year and says the aircraft, which incorporates the Selex ES SkyISTAR mission management system, has already completed low-speed taxi tests.



The Hammerhead had its first engine start and runway taxi trial on 14 February at an Italian air force base and has now entered "the final phase of test where the aircraft systems in flight configuration will be tested at all levels", says the Genoa-based company. First flight is scheduled for "later this year".

Piaggio also offers a piloted, special-mission version of the Avanti II. The company's chief executive Alberto Galassi says both aircraft support Piaggio's "newly declared vision of becoming a prominent player in the surveillance and security sector".

The Hammerhead is designed to climb to 45,000ft and loiter at 135kt, with an endurance of up to 16h. Based on a certificated Mach 0.7 aircraft, the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66B-powered Hammerhead will be the "fastest medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV ever designed", says Piaggio.

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Source: Flight Daily News