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Alenia Details Neuron Role, UAV Expertise

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Alenia Aermacchi: nEUROn, the European UCAV Technology Demonstrator

(Source: Alenia Aermacchi; issued Dec. 1, 2012)

The Neuron program, a collaborative program between France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland, represents an important effort in maturing new technologies and setting the basis for future military unmanned aircraft programs. This initiative envisages the manufacturing and first test flight of the first full-scale technological demonstrator of a Combat Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The Neuron recorded its successful first flight on 1 December 2012.

The Neuron programme is an important step in the technology’s maturation process, providing confidence in the technology by decreasing the level of risk and moving towards system development for operational uses.

The Neuron is dedicated to the demonstration of key combat technologies, with fallout both on manned and unmanned future complex systems. It comprises the design, development, manufacturing and flight testing of an aircraft featured by low radar-cross section and low infra-red signature, capable of autonomous flight and of weapon delivery.

Although not a prototype, Neuron may well be considered representative of future combat UAVs.

The demonstration goals are:
• Performing Air-to-Ground missions inserted in a network centric warfare’s command and control systems.
• Designing a stealth platform (low radar cross section and low infrared signature);
• Weapon delivery from an internal bay with stringent time constraint;
• Performing an autonomous target detection and recognition demo.

From the industrial point of view, Neuron is led by the French Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi is the first industrial partner, with a 22% share of the program with responsibilities at system and sub-system level. Alenia Aermacchi is also a leader in an Italian pool of companies, including SELEX Galileo (both are units of Finmeccanica).

Alenia Aermacchi’s contribution to the project includes design and production of the generation and electrical distribution system; the innovative air data system (with stealth characteristics) and low observable components.

Most importantly, Alenia is also responsible for the integrated weapon system with full autonomous management of the sub-systems, the so-called Smart Integrated Weapon Bay (SIWB). This system will allow the detection, recognition and illumination of the target and will enable the sending of an approval request to the ground station commander as well as the launching of any kind of weapon, all of this with stealth modalities.

Neuron’s capabilities will be demonstrated in flight tests that will be carried out in Italy, France and Sweden. (ends)

Alenia Aermacchi: Leader In Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), the New Technology Frontier In Aviation

(Source: Alenia Aermacchi; issued Dec. 1, 2012)

Alenia Aermacchi is the leading European player in the fast growing field of Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) for the civil and defense markets.

Alenia Aermacchi’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) main activities are focused on the development of technological demonstrators such as Sky-X, Sky-Y, and nEUROn and on research and development of advanced MALE products (Medium Altitude Long Endurance).

The Sky-X is the first UAV technological demonstrator developed by Alenia Aermacchi. It was conceived as a UCAS demonstrator and in May 2005 it set the European record in the over-one-ton UAV category with a successful flight testing the main system’s components and flight characteristics. In June 2008, the Sky-X set a new world record, taking off from Amendola AFB, in the Puglia Region, completing for the first time in the world a series of join-up manoeuvres with another airplane to simulate a flight-refuelling operation, in a completely automated process.

The Sky-Y was specifically developed as demonstrator of innovative techniques and technologies for a surveillance and reconnaissance MALE UAV. The platform’s main goals are to check the use of carbon-alloy light structures and test the diesel engine technologies of automotive derivation for the aeronautical field. This activity is intended to minimize consumption, keep operational costs low, and use the same fuel as jet aircraft rather than the expensive and increasingly hard-to-find aviation fuel. The Sky-Y flew for the first time in June 2007 and holds the continental record of 8 consecutive flight hours for UAVs of below- 1,000-kg class, achieved at the Vidsel base in Sweden.

The Sky-Y has been chosen by the MIDCAS program to demonstrate an in-flight sense-and-avoid system available for a UAS, showing it is able to fulfil the requirements for traffic separation and mid-air collision avoidance in non-segregated airspace.

Neuron is a European cooperation program developed to conceive, produce, and test the first European UCAS demonstrator with stealth characteristics. Alenia Aermacchi is a first-level partner with responsibility for design and production of the electric power generation and distribution, the air data system (sensor for flight parameters and algorithms), the low-observability components and, above all, the integrated weapon system called Smart Integrated Weapon Bay (SIWB).

With this solid background and thanks to its capabilities of design, development and integration of certifiable complex systems, Alenia Aermacchi’s goal is to offer UAS products for civil and military applications, with advanced autonomy capable of meeting the certification requirements for flight in non-segregated airspaces under definition.