Solar Powered HAPS: Leonardo invests in the world’s first solar-powered drone capable of perpetual flight with heavy payloads

miércoles, 13 de noviembre de 2019

press releases:

Leonardo has invested in Skydweller Aero Inc., a start-up specialising in the development of a new generation of unmanned aircraft

Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo: “As the key technological investor and partner of the project, Leonardo will broaden its capabilities in new power systems, autonomous flight, innovative aerostructures, ultra-light materials and eco-friendly technologies to improve the Company’s competitive advantage in the aerospace business for the next 20 years”

Leveraging 15 years of airframe development, the Skydweller drone is expected to begin flight operations as soon as 2021

Skydweller’s endurance and payload allow it to fill key gaps in many countries’ integrated surveillance architecture. It enables improved situational awareness for military forces and more cost-effective utilisation of resources than with traditional systems

Rome, 8 November 2019 – Leonardo is accelerating the progress of technology and innovation in autonomous flight by investing in Skydweller Aero Inc., a US/Spanish start-up specialising in large-scale solar-powered unmanned air systems. The initiative will result in the development and deployment of the Skydweller drone, the world’s first atmospheric pseudo-satellite capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance.

“As the key technological investor and partner of the project, Leonardo will broaden its capabilities in new power systems, autonomous flight, innovative aerostructures, ultra-light materials and eco-friendly technologies to improve the company’s competitive advantage in the aerospace business for the next 20 years “, commented Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo.

As an atmospheric satellite, Skydweller combines the persistence of a geostationary satellite with the flexibility of an aircraft. It will operate from existing airbases around the world, deploy thousands of miles away to areas of high need, and remain overhead for orders of magnitude longer than current aircraft. This revolutionary platform will be used for purposes ranging from land and maritime surveillance to monitoring the environment and infrastructure, from industrial geo-information services to telecommunications and precision navigation. During emergencies and disaster-recovery situations, the system can be rapidly deployed from distant locations to provide backup communications and direct support to first responders.

The Skydweller project builds on a proven and mature aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe in 2016. The first phase focuses on converting the aircraft from a manned platform into an Optionally-Piloted Vehicle (OPV) by integrating advanced autonomy algorithms and vehicle management systems. The second step of the project will culminate in the first production aircraft, designed solely for unmanned operations and hardened against a range of environmental conditions. Autonomous flights of the OPV are projected for 2020 and the first production model of the unmanned version of the aircraft is expected in 2021.

The system will comply with European export laws and will not be subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions. This will enable the aircraft to satisfy government and commercial needs around the world. Leonardo will act as the prime contractor for commercial opportunities in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland and NATO.

Development and construction of the aircraft will be carried out at the Skydweller facility in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. Leonardo Aircraft division will participate in development and engineering activities via a dedicated team.


Skydweller, a US-Spanish Aerospace Company, and Solar Impulse have signed an agreement for Skydweller to acquire the SI-2 aircraft, related assets and exclusive IP license to develop a new unmanned aircraft capable of perpetual flight.

Alexandria Virginia USA & Ciudad Real / Madrid, Spain: September 11, 2019 – Skydweller is a US-Spanish aerospace company developing commercial unmanned perpetual flight vehicles. Skydweller has entered into an agreement with Solar Impulse to acquire the historic SI-2 aircraft, related assets and exclusive IP license. Skydweller will use this and its teams of experts to develop an unmanned variant. These aircraft platforms will deliver many services in different data and communications markets such as: natural resource monitoring, data collection, aerial mapping, weather and environmental forecasting, emergency operations, and telecommunications; including Internet and 5G mobile communications for remote and under-served areas.

Dr. Robert Miller, CEO of Skydweller said, “This September we will begin full scale operations to develop, test, and industrialize the world’s first atmospheric pseudo satellite capable of large payloads with unlimited range and endurance. Like the Satellite market, in the 90’s, large payload solar powered aircraft will change the way much of the world communicates and shares data. By leveraging 15 years of R&D from Solar Impulse including over a thousand hours of solar-powered flights, we will bring this solution to market several years faster and with more capability than would otherwise be possible.”

Skydweller has chosen to invest in a production and manufacturing facility in the province of Ciudad Real (Castilla La Mancha, Spain). Sébastien Renouard, COO of Skydweller said, “The Castilla La Mancha region offers a great workforce and infrastructure for the successful development of autonomous technologies. The local authorities have shown much enthusiasm and plan to financially support the project as an economic opportunity for the region’s development. We are honored to work with them.”

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