The Falco is an unmanned tactical system capable of flying at altitudes of up to 6,000 metres, and characterised by an extensive endurance that can surpass 20 hours, currently used by many international customers in geographical and climatic extremes. Used for surveillance applications in the field of security and defence, the Falco is designed to provide command and control capabilities, allowing the real-time identification of objectives and ensuring a tactical view of the scenario thanks a maximum payload of 100 kg.
The Italian UAV weighing 490 kg Selex ES Falco, first flown in 2003 year, was developed only for the external market. The main buyer was Pakistan, which allegedly ordered Falco 25 machines in 2006 and obtained a license for their manufacture by the local company Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. In September 2013, a country in the Middle East, presumably Jordan or Saudi Arabia, placed an order worth 40 million euros for the Falco UAV. Turkmenistan bought three, and the UN bought five vehicles, initially to support its operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Falco Evo (Evo short for Evoluzione) is significantly heavier (650 kg, therefore, the Croup IV category) development of the previous model with a wingspan increased from 7,2 to 12,5 meter. The original Falco was chosen by five nations, while its successor, the Falco EVO, has been chosen for the United Nations MONUSCO humanitarian mission and has been deployed for the European Union’s Frontex surveillance research programme. Today more than 50 Falco family RPAS are currently engaged on operations around the world, some being operated by customers directly and some being owned and operated by Leonardo on behalf of customers as a managed service.
The FALCO EVO UAV system is a persistent unmanned surveillance asset able to carry a wide selection of multispectral sensors suites allowing reliable real-time stand-off target detection, classification, identification and shadowing, becoming a valuable information and intelligence node integral with any national C4I network. It leverages directly on the FALCO System’s proven mission reliability record, delivering superior performance (multipayload capability, endurance and mission range) that matches higher end unmanned systems.
Typical system configuration includes a Ground Control Station (GCS) connected to a Ground Data Terminal (GDT), a Ground Support Equipment (GSE) and typically three air vehicles with associated mission payload suites tailored to customer’s needs. The FALCO EVO’s specific characteristics of deployability, multi-mission capability, mission endurance and reduced logistic footprint represent a true and effective system solution, providing valuable LOS/BLOS targets detection, tracking and identification in ground, littoral and maritime environments.
Alongside the operationally proven FALCO, the FALCO EVO UAV System is aimed at dual-use requirements providing 24/7, all-weather persistent regional surveillance, covering a wide range of missions and complementing typical military roles (theatre persistent multispectral surveillance) with government/commercial missions such as border patrol, coastal watch, immigration prevention, law enforcement, power and pipelines surveillance, illegal fishery prevention and environmental monitoring.
The platform is able to carry a wide selection of mission payloads including Electro-Optical (EO)/Infra-red (IR)/ Laser Range Finder (LRF)/Laser Designator (LD), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), passive and active Electronic Warfare (EW) equipment with the ability to carry combined payload suites function of the mission task, including SATCOM operations.
The FALCO EVO presents significant performance enhancements guaranteeing the same FALCO System reliability reliance by adopting the same established fault tolerant architecture along EASA Airworthiness guidelines. To relieve crew workload, the system features assisted and automatic flight management, including automatic take-off and landing, and automatic area surveillance modes with associated near real time target data processing and exploitation. Wide selection of multi-payload configurations for multitask and BLOS operations. The System can be easily adapted to meet customer’s requirements and mission payloads. System mobility, seamless airport operations integration and reduced logistic foot-print The common FALCO/FALCO EVO Ground Control Station enables mission planning and rehearsal, preflight system check, mission management, flight plan re-tasking, mission playback and simulation for operator training. The surveillance flight plan is typically flown automatically along the preprogrammed route including the take-off and landing phases, with the possibility to perform manual override any time during the flight. The Ground Control Station is capable of off-line target data evaluation and processing, for further data diffusion through the C4I net in STANAG 4609 format. Real-time data can also be received by small front line units via Remote Video Terminals (RVT).
The Ground Data Terminal provides a real-time data link range in excess of 200Km between the Ground Control Station and the in-flight FALCO EVO air vehicle, via a redundant C&C data link and jam-resistant (option) data/images transmission in real time. If required, a SATCOM equipment (option) allows BLOS surveillance.
Leonardo's Falco EVO drone played a leading role in a large-scale emergency-response simulation that took place on 23 May 2019 in Lampedusa, Italy. The purpose of the simulation was to road-test a new model of cooperative crisis management involving military, civil and health facilities and the use of remotely-piloted air systems. During the exercise, the Falco EVO demonstrated its efficacy in a civil role, helping to manage the response to emergencies. The simulation was part of a wider exercise organised by SIAARTI (the Italian Society for Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Intensive Care) and Italy’s CREM Academy (Critical Emergency Medicine). The scope of this wider study (19-24 May) is to evaluate how to best manage responses to emergencies in hard-to-reach areas.
During the simulation, which was designed to emulate a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, the Falco EVO was used to rapidly survey the affected area, acquire data via its on-board payloads and redistribute the information to control and emergency management centres. This kind of information gathering is essential when responding to emergencies and needs to be achievable even when areas are difficult to reach by more traditional methods. The data collected by the Falco EVO enables the timely and correctly-targeted use of other operational resources during emergency situations.
Leonardo’s Falco family of drones have already seen active service safeguarding civilians, such as throughout the United Nation’s MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the last five years, the UN has been using Falco to support the delivery of its humanitarian mandate and the drones have played a leading role in a number of rescues, such as reporting on a capsized boat in Lake Kivu near Goma.
The Falco EVO itself is currently being employed in a maritime surveillance role for the European Union, gathering information in Italian and Maltese civil airspace as part of the EU Frontex programme. One of the key roles of Frontex is to evaluate the use of drones in monitoring and controlling the EU’s external borders.
On 20 June 2019, Leonardo’s Falco EVO tactical remotely-piloted aerial system played a key role in monitoring a case involving irregular migrants in the Mediterranean sea as part of monitoring activities of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. In an operation launched from the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Falco EVO worked with other Frontex assets to identify a “mothership” trawler as 81 illegal migrants were transferred to smaller boats, a technique increasingly used by criminal organisations. Following the transfer, the Falco EVO’s surveillance payloads kept a close eye on the trawler until an enforcement operation was launched by Italian authorities to seize the boat.
The Falco EVO system deployed at Lampedusa Airport has already flown for more than 280 hours on behalf of Frontex, with one mission on the 26th June clocking in at 17 hours and 21 minutes. This extra-long mission came about when Frontex received a request from the Italian Authorities to help monitor two boats in the Lampedusa area. Close collaboration between ENAV, ENAC, AST Lampedusa, the Italian Guardia di Finanza (customs police) and Leonardo allowed the mission finish time to be extended by two hours to 24:00 so that the Falco EVO could support the interception.
The Falco EVO has been deployed at Lampedusa Airport since December 2018 as part of multipurpose aerial surveillance provided by Frontex. Flights are planned in coordination with the Guardia di Finanza and the Italian Ministry of the Interior and carried out by Leonardo, which owns and operates the Falco EVO under a service arrangement. ENAC, Italy’s national agency for civil aviation, ENAV, the company managing Italy’s civil air traffic, and Lampedusa Airport operator AST Aeroservizi also support the operations.
In its configuration for the Frontex mission, the Falco EVO is equipped with an advanced suite of sensors including the Company’s Gabbiano TS Ultra-Light radar, which is suitable for long range missions during the day and at night. The Falco EVO is operated and maintained by Leonardo crews.
|Air vehicle length||6.2m|
|PERFORMANCE (ISA CONDITIONS)|
|Max payload weight in excess of||100Kg|
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