The Government of Italy has its eye on 20 surveillance drones which will empty the pockets of the country to the tune of almost US$1 billion.
The drone, which has a body based on that of a commercial passenger aircraft, is named the HammerHead due to the very recognisable ‘pusher propellors’ on its nose.
With a remarkable 24-hour flight time, top altitude of 45,000 feet, and top speed of 330 knots, the UAVs form the bulk of an acquisition request by Italy’s Ministry of Defence last month for 20 Piaggio Aerospace P.2HH drones 10 piloting stations, totaling an incredible €766 million (U.S. $951 million).
The request follows a development phase of the medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, which was halted for a time after prototype crash in mid-2016.
The HammerHead drones, once purchased, will carry out tasks including surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions.
The story of Piaggio and Italy has not been without hiccups, it was reported in Defense News.
Previous to this funding announcement Piaggio had reported in 2015 it would launch its smaller version, the P.1HH in collaboration with the Italian Air Force at the Paris Air Show of that year.
The Italian Air Force assisted with test flights but prior to a solid deal being signed, a €316 million deal was signed the with the UAE in March 2016 for eight of the P.1HH UAVs.
However with crash of the prototype into the Mediterranean Sea due to flight-control system integration problems, test flights were put on hold until July 2017.
Since then, Italy has set its sights on the HammerHead, which is a larger version offering longer endurance.
“The development of a new version of the UAV, which [is] more advanced and which offers greater performance, is one of the growth objectives of our firm,” said Renato Vaghi, CEO of Piaggio Aerospace. “So we are following with interest the legislative process that envisages the provision of funding by the Italian government for its development and acquisition.”
However, the order has not yet been officially placed, and there is speculation that the order was intended as a gap filler before of the introduction of the EuroMALE – a gap that is ever decreasing.