The Leonardo Drone Contest 2021 Scientific Symposium of the: a bridge between universities and businesses in the pursuit of technological innovation

15 July 2021

Today saw the conclusion to the second Scientific Symposium of the Leonardo Drone Contest 2021 held at the Aerotech Campus at Pomigliano D’Arco, the centre of excellence belonging to Leonardo Labs, the company's incubators for the long-term research and development of the most innovative - particularly digital - technologies.

The first part of the event was centred around a presentation of developments in projects by Phd students and teachers from universities taking part in the Leonardo Drone Contest – the Polytechnic University of Turin, the Polytechnic University of Milan, Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna, the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies - Pisa, the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, and the University of Naples Federico II.

A subsequent series of debates, starting with an introduction by Aurelio Calcedonio Boscarino, Head of Engineering Architect Team, on “Future Outlooks for Flight”, focused on the fields of Advance Air Mobility, enabling technologies, artificial intelligence applied to uncrewed systems, machine learning and computer vision - all vital elements in accelerating the technological development and diversification of the business.

The event provided a preview of upcoming novelty in the second Leonardo Drone Contest which, like last year, will be held in September at the Aircraft Division headquarters in Turin.

Laurent Sissmann, Leonardo Uncrewed Systems Manager, explained: “Today we have been able to appreciate what PhD students and professors have prepared for the new competition scheduled for September in Turin. This has been an important symposium on multiple fronts: to increase the scientific knowledge and technological development of the various participating teams by sharing the research conducted at each university in order to compete in this second and much more challenging round of the Drone Contest; to feed the debate and a fruitful exchange on Open Innovation between Universities and Leonardo, so as to understand, today, what goals need to be achieved, together, tomorrow; and to boost the PhD students’ entrepreneurial spirit by providing them with the methods and tools for the establishment of highly innovative companies. Because the Leonardo Drone Contest is all about stimulating technologies, entrepreneurship and knowledge, and fostering a technological ecosystem stemming from the union between major companies and universities.”

This year's Symposium was enhanced by a workshop aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and the growth of an «ecosystem» to involve and pool the capabilities of large companies, universities, SMEs, and national spin-offs and start-ups, the primary objective of the Leonardo Drone Contest itself.

The event included a series of dialogues headed “The Future of Leonardo through innovation, technology and sustainability”, with contributions by Alessandro Massa, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer and Vincenzo Cozzolino, Chief People, Organization and Transformation Officer at Leonardo. A debate also took place entitled “How to create innovative businesses: from research to successful company” with guests Alessandro Scortecci, Strategy & Business Development Manager at Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Alberto Fioravanti, President of Digital Magics.

Again at the Aerotech Campus, one week ago Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo awarded diplomas to the first 30 students graduating from the Academy at Pomigliano D’Arco.

The Leonardo Drone Contest is an Open Innovation project conceived and developed by Leonardo, in collaboration with six Italian universities, to promote the development in Italy of Artificial Intelligence applied to the uncrewed systems sector.

For three years Leonardo has been supporting the activities of six PhD students from the universities taking part, awarding scholarships for the annual challenge with the aim of encouraging research and innovation. The Leonardo Drone Contest officially began on 12 November 2019 and will conclude in 2022. The first challenge took place on 18 September, 2020, in the competition area set up at the Leonardo Aircraft Division in Turin. During next year's contest and the last one scheduled for 2022 the PhD students, supported by professors and in collaboration with the university teams and Leonardo, will develop and propose more innovative capabilities for uncrewed drone systems. Leonardo is today the only European player with the capacity to supply complete remote-controlled solutions - designing and developing all the elements of a drone-based system - for intelligence, surveillance, monitoring and information gathering missions through the integration of platforms, radar and electro-optical sensors, mission systems and ground control stations.

Leonardo is committed to protecting communities worldwide, contributing to their sustainable growth as a leader in next-generation technologies. Collaboration with governments, organisations and industries in the improvement of security and protection capabilities is a cornerstone of the Leonardo BeTomorrow2030 strategic plan.