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Leonardo SW-4 Solo helicopter flies for 45 minutes with no pilot aboard

Test is the first unmanned flight of the 'optionally piloted' helicopter

Leonardo announced on Tuesday that it carried out the first flight of its SW-4 Solo single-engine optionally piloted helicopter, flying for 45 minutes with no safety pilot on board.

Tests of the Solo Rotary Unmanned Air System/Optionally Piloted Helicopter included “remote engine start up and shut down with ground run, automatic take-off and landing, hovering OGE (Out of Ground Effect) and acceleration to forward flight, automatic way point navigation to and from the area of operation and simulation of a surveillance mission,” the company said in a press release.

The helicopter reached an altitude of 1,500 feet (457 meters) and a speed of 60 knots (111 km/h) during the flight at Taranto-Grottaglie Airport in southern Italy.

The Solo RUAS/OPH is derived from Leonardo’s SW-4 helicopter, manufactured in Poland, and is designed to operate with or without a pilot. Tests with a pilot on board have been conduced since December 2016, but Tuesday’s test was the first solo flight.

Leonardo markets the SW-4 Solo for civil government, military and maritime use. When piloted, it can be used for personnel transport and cargo re-supply as well as surveillance, battlefield activities and intervention. Its maritime applications include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, targeting, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare support, and mine countermeasures.

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