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Piaggio’s P.1HH “HammerHead” multipurpose UAS

Unmanned systems are highly regarded by military personnel for their versatility in different roles and applications

HammerHeadPiaggio Aero worked together with the fundamental support of its shareholders Mubadala Aerospace and Tata Ltd (read also here) and with Selex Electronic Systems on the self-funded program for more than two years.

The “HammerHead” unmanned aircraft – part of the P.1HH unmanned aerial system – is a derivative of the Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti II platform multirole patrol aircraft (MPA), newly designed for multi mission purposes such as aerial, land, coastal, maritime and offshore security, COMINT/ELINT missions, and electronic warfare.

The P.1HH “HammerHead” programme objective is the development of a multipurpose state-of-the-art UAS designed to meet the need for a robust and high-tech solutions. The payloads including Sigint and Elint packages as well as being able to conduct border and maritime surveillance and electronic warfare. Weapons and other external stores could also be fitted to pylons attached to the forward fuselage. The Piaggio Aero P.1HH UAS includes an unmanned aircraft platform, specific mission equipment and systems and a remote Ground Control Station (GCS).

It also features automatic take-off and landing capabilities and is able to fly at up to 45,000 ft, with an endurance of 16 flight hours. The Piaggio Aero P.1HH ‘“HammerHead”’ UAV will also be compliant with the STANAG USAR 4671 standards that enable it to fly both in restricted and unrestricted flight areas.

The P.1HH “HammerHead” unmanned aircraft’s main features are an enhanced airframe, increased aerodynamic configuration with a reinforced wing providing an increased surface and higher aspect ratio. The aerodynamic configuration is based on the development of new wings providing a 15.5 m wing span with the subsequent modification of the previous P.180 aerodynamic design but maintaining Piaggio Aero’s patented three lifting surfaces configuration.

The aircraft features a removable external section wing in order to guarantee easy ground transportation and provide operational flexibility in an environment. This modified aerodynamic configuration underwent extensive low speed/high speed wind tunnel testing to validate both its design and performance.

The aircraft has been developed to capture part of the medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) market against aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper or BAE Systems Mantis.
“There is a requirement from many countries for a medium altitude, long endurance UAS in Europe and elsewhere,” said Alberto Galassi, CEO of Piaggio Aero. “We are providing a platform that is a certified aircraft, this will make it a more attractive option as restrictions on UAS’ become stricter.” “Being ideally designed to perform at the highest, [most] sensitive mission level in patrol, detection and reconnaissance environments, the P.1HH UAS will provide sophisticated stand-off capabilities for any surveillance and security need,” Galassi said.

The “HammerHead” will be controlled from mission control stations produced by Selex, with line of sight and beyond line of sight using satellite communications. The mission system is a development of Selex’s SkyISTAR system allowing the fitment of a range of sensors. Selex is also providing the aircraft’s vehicle management and control system, and air data terminals. Other changes to the aircraft include a removable external section of the wing which according to Piaggio will help assist in ground transportation of the aircraft if required.

Selex ES has been selected as the Piaggio Aero UAS systems partner. Through this partnership, Selex ES will be responsible for the development of the mission management system, the vehicle management and control system, air data terminal and the ground control segment for the Piaggio Aero P.1HH ‘“HammerHead”’ UAS.

“We are proud to have been selected by Piaggio Aero as partner in this unique and very ambitious programme that brings together the expertise of two leading Italian companies in the aerospace and defence domain,” said Fabrizio Giulianini, CEO of Selex ES. “This achievement rewards the effort and investment that Selex ES has dedicated to the development of key enabling technologies and know-how in autonomous unmanned systems. These are integrated into our SkyISTAR system solution that, after less than two years from its launch, is now securing its first customer. This programme is a step forward in bringing to market a truly European MALE ISR UAS.”

Piaggio hopes to fly the prototype “HammerHead” before the end of the year and plans to begin marketing it to potential customers at the Paris Air Show in June.
This is the third special mission variant of the Avanti: Abu Dhabi Autonomous System Investments (ADASI) plans to develop a maritime patrol variant of the P.180, and Rockwell Collins has been selected to provide a new avionics suite for the MPA variant. There is also a ‘flight checker’ version of the P.180 for flight inspection duties.

The P.1HH “HammerHead” aircraft will be remotlycontrolled from a autonomous mission control ground station (GCS) by both a Line Of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) satellite communication system. The Piaggio Aero UAS features a state of the art Vehicle Control & Management System (VCMS) combined with a sophisticated Air Data Terminal (ADT) and a customised Mission Management System (MMS) for the control of all mission specific equipment.

The P.1HH “HammerHead” unmanned aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B turboprop engines, rated at 950 shp, and features newly designed, low noise Hartzell 5 curved blades propellers. The propulsion system will be remote-controlled by an engine interface unit, which is part of the P.1HH Vehicle Control and Management System.

Source Arabian Aerospace, Aviation week, Piaggio

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