Italians Test UAVs in Bid for Leadership Role
Leading Italian exhibitors at the Dubai show are demonstrating the company’s increasing capability in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles. This follows a recent European first when three different models of UAV–the Alenia Aeronautica Sky-Y MALE-class UAV, Selex Galileo Falco MAME UAV and Nimbus C-Fly low-flying UAV–flew together in the same airspace, operating from civil airports.
The demonstration was the final step of Phase 1 of the SMAT (advanced land monitoring system, in Italian), which aims to study, develop and test a monitoring system to help authorities to cope better during emergencies such as floods, fires, landslides and so on. SMAT also represents Italy’s bid for a leadership position in a future European land and coastal monitoring program.
SMAT is coordinated by the Piedmont Aerospace Cluster and co-financed by the Piedmont Region through the European Regional Development Fund. The leading industrial partner is Alenia Aeronautica, leading a group of major companies including Selex Galileo (Stand C420).
The demonstration in late September saw the 9.9-meter wingspan Sky-Y take off from the Cuneo-Levaldigi Airport, followed later by the 7.2-meter wingspan Falco, both being controlled by line-of-sight links. The much lighter C-Fly2, which has an eight-meter span wing (partially inflated with helium, thus providing a high lift capacity even at very slow speeds), took off from an unprepared field, as it is capable of operating from very small surfaces. All flight and sensor data were sent through wide-band communication systems to the supervision and coordination station (SCS) based in Turin.
The test verified that UAVs could increase situational awareness on given targets thanks to unmanned systems flying at different altitudes with different sensor packages: the Sky-Y was equipped with electro-optic sensors, the Falco with E/O and SAR radar sensors and the C-Fly with E/O and chemical sensors. The datalink that facilitated transfer of all those data from the airframes to the SCS was a prototype by Selex-Elsag that provided a 10 Megabytes per second throughput, the objective rate when fully developed being 45 Mbps. The flight was carried out under radar control from the Italian Air Force air defense radar net implemented by the Pluto search radar for low-altitude monitoring.
SMAT Phase 2, financing for which has been announced by the Piedmont regional representatives, will be aimed at further developing the system, taking into consideration potential user requirements, testing new technologies and aiming to obtain civil certification.