PARIS -- Italian aviation firm Piaggio Aero unveiled Tuesday the HammerHead unmanned aircraft system along with Selex ES here at the Paris Air Show marking the first time an Italian company has developed a large scale UAS.
The international market continues to demand medium to large sized unmanned aircraft. It's a market that U.S. and Israeli defense firms have dominated.
The P1HH Hammerhead is a sign that growth is coming outside the two leaders. China and Russian defense companies are also looking to expand the number of larger scale drones they produce.
The Hammerhead can climb to 35,000 feet in 20 minutes and operate with a 45,000 foot ceiling. The UAS is designed as a surveillance aircraft with an endurance of 16 hours carrying 500 pounds of payload and a range of up to 4,400 nautical miles.
Piaggio Aero was the prime contractor and built the aircraft while Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company, integrated the sensors and the operating system.
The aircraft was first announced in February at the IDEX defense show in Abu Dhabi. The drone is yet to fly, but officials said it's in the final stages of preflight clearance trials. Selex ES leaders said they expect the first flight to occur within a year.
With defense budgets shrinking across the world, Piaggio Aero and Selex ES expect the HammerHead to receive plenty of attention because they plan to price it well below similar U.S. and Israeli models, said Norman Bone, managing director for Selex ES' Airborne and Space Systems Division.
Bone said it would be hard to compare the HammerHead to a U.S. drone, but said it is similar to the Hermes produced by Elbit Systems in Israel.
The companies don't have near term plans to arm the aircraft, but Bone said it could be part of the future development.