Leonardo unveils AWHero RUAS’ new developments showing unique technologies and capabilities for multi-purpose maritime operations

Rome,  05 June 2023 17:15

The system enhancements unveiled at SEAFUTURE 2023 today reflect the move from basic design to CONOPS (Concept of Operations) focused configuration, particularly for operations in the naval domain.

New developments include heavy fuel powerplant, airframe modification, advanced sensor modularity among others; AWHero also builds upon proven basic configuration including rotor system and transmissions, core avionic system, data-link architecture, and control station. 

AWHero is part of a forward-looking roadmap that Leonardo is implementing to maintain its leadership in vertical flight and UAS applications in the frame of current and future technological evolutions. 

Leonardo unveiled today the latest developments for its 200 kg class AWHero RUAS (Rotary Uncrewed Aerial System) during an official ceremony held at SEAFUTURE 2023 (La Spezia – Italy) on board Italian Navy’s Paolo Thaon di Revel PPA (Pattugliatore Polivalente d'Altura - Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Vessel). The unveiling was carried out in the presence of representatives from institutions and across industry. 

AWHero leverages on Leonardo’s unique combination of longstanding and extensive capabilities in rotorcraft system development and within integration in support of the uncrewed aerial system and naval application sectors. The first and only RUAS in its class with a military certification, obtained in Italy in late 2021, and based on worldwide recognised standards, which already demonstrate the robustness of the system, AWHero now features new developments stemming from previously planned and anticipated activities based on a range of enhancements. 

The new developments include in particular: a heavy fuel powerplant based on a unique twin-engine solution increasing efficiency safety and Time Between Overhauls; airframe modifications delivering significant operational and support advantages (powerplant integration, payload bay capacity, system/sensor integration and field of view, maintainability, on-deck stability); advanced sensor modularity; - the Leonardo Gabbiano TS Ultralight maritime radar for unmatched all-weather wide area coverage -; enhanced survivability, and cyber resilience. However, the system builds upon the certified and proven basic configuration with which it shares the rotor system, transmissions, a core avionic system, data-link architecture, and a control station. 

Gian Piero Cutillo, MD of Leonardo Helicopters, said “AWHero is part of a forward-looking roadmap that Leonardo is implementing to maintain its leadership in vertical flight applications in the frame of current and future technological evolutions, which will extensively re-shape this industry. Within this roadmap, uncrewed systems and relevant enabling technologies (i.e. automation/autonomy, communications, sensors integration and fusion) are key elements in which the company has been significantly investing, while  leveraging a fruitful collaboration with the Italian Military Authorities. The system enhancements unveiled today reflect the incremental yet firm move from basic design to CONOPS (Concept of Operations) focused configuration. This is particularly true for the relevant naval applications, which remain a priority market for these kind of systems, which are able to meet intelligence and situational awareness extension capabilities with an optimized use of resources.” 

AWHero is optimized to support a range of assets involved in a range of naval and multi-domain operations such as ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance), ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare), Electronic Warfare, Communication Relay, Border Protection, Combat support, and Force Protection, and can be integrated with the naval combat management system. 
Leonardo’s integrated capabilities in rotary-wing platforms, system integration, UAS systems and support/training services as well as proprietary technology delivers AWHero’s operators with unmatched system growth and customisation potential and through-life cycle support benefits. 

Since 2019, AWHero has been conducting maritime surveillance capability demonstrations on ships within the framework of the OCEAN2020 initiative, the European Defence Fund strategic research programme for naval surveillance technology and maritime safety, including 43 organisations across Europe and led by Leonardo. It has benefitted from a range of capability demonstration initiatives in the RUAS domain in Italy, UK and Europe. 

Leonardo is the only company in Europe, which is able to provide complete solutions by designing and developing all the elements of uncrewed systems: platforms, sensors, mission systems, control stations and offer customers a certified low risk, highly effective, fully integrated capability. Leonardo is a key partner and contributor to significant European uncrewed system programmes and Leonardo’s expertise and capabilities in the sector have been extensively demonstrated during international exercises. Leonardo has developed proprietary uncrewed systems and technologies, including anti-drone capabilities and uncrewed traffic management (UTM) systems. The continuous development and integration of cutting-edge solutions across all domains of remotely-piloted and autonomous/semi-autonomous systems and technologies is a key element of Leonardo’s ‘Be Tomorrow 2030’ Strategic Plan.