Dubbed the P.1HH HammerHead, this UAV is the result of a collaboration between Piaggio Aero and Selex ES based on the P-180 Avanti II, a twin-engine turboprop. The Avanti II is primarily utilised as a business jet with a 1400 NM range, though a "Special Mission" piloted derivative is also available for both emergency response and military operations.
In the latter case, the Avanti II can perform in a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, security surveillance roles.
The HammerHead UAV, while maintaining the Avanti II's 47-foot fuselage length and 13 foot height, does incorporate slightly-larger reinforced wings measuring 51 feet across. It also replaces the cockpit and cabin with an oversized fuel tank, sensor suite, and avionics bay. The HammerHead will also carry an external radome. In all, the UAV will be able to take off with a maximum payload of about 4,000 pounds worth of sensors and equipment. A pair of 950 SHP Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B turboprop engines will propel the aircraft to its 45,000 foot operational ceiling and keep it there for up to 16 hours.
While it is capable of autonomously taking off and landing, the P.1HH can be controlled remotely through both Line of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS), a satellite-based communication system, ground control stations. What's more, the HammerHead is equipped with the Selex ES-developed skyISTAR system. The skyISTAR integrates and analyses data from the on-board sensor suite before transmitting the synthesized image to the UAV operator.
Fabrizio Giulianini, CEO of SELEX Galileo had this to say: "In the future, UAS, especially MALE UAS, will need to be able to carry out a broader range of surveillance missions at an affordable cost while minimising ground crew workload. skyISTAR is flexible enough to meet all sorts of mission requirements while its platform and payload agnostic design means it can be adapted to the budget of the customer. Crucially, our experience with similar manned systems such as the ATOS means we'll able to convert the data a UAS collects into the most useful information possible for operators on the ground."
Selex executives expect this system to turn the HammerHead into an effective medium altitude surveillance platform for everything from covert surveillance to border security to disaster relief.
"We plan to fly the P.1HH HammerHead unmanned platform demonstrator by this summer, with the aim to conduct the maiden flight of the future dual-use medium-altitude long-endurance [MALE] fixed-wing unmanned air system prototype by year-end," says Alberto Galassi, Piaggio Aero chief executive. The HammerHead must first complete its ground test phase before flight tests begin later this year, however Galassi is confident that the UAV will enter service for the Italian military by 2014.