It has the shape of a small plane, takes off from a catapult and is able to fly for many hours over forests and forests at risk of fire. It is the “Rapier”, the new fixed-wing drone developed by the Tuscan company Sky Eye Systems (OMA group), which is able to identify any outbreaks early, to support the interventions of firefighting vehicles from the ground and from the sky and also to check dangerous or burning areas 24 hours a day. The aircraft, designed for the needs of the Carabinieri Forestali or the Fire Brigade, can in fact be equipped with a series of sophisticated sensors, from electro-optical and infrared cameras to a mini-radar with synthetic aperture (called “SkySAR” and developed by Sky Eye Systems itself), capable of operating in conditions of poor visibility due to smoke and even at night.
The function of the Rapier
“A single Rapier, both in the X-25 version and in the X-SkySAR version, positioned centrally in one of the Italian regions, would be able to intervene quickly in any area of the regional territory and provide very valuable images and data in real time for effectively tackle a forest fire ”, explains Eng. Giovanni Fumia, Sky Eye Systems marketing manager. “Choosing a fixed-wing aircraft, instead of a multirotor, allows you to have a higher speed, to carry out long-range flights and to be able to face long-duration missions. At the end of the mission, the drone lands thanks to a parachute and two large airbags, with a completely automated and user-friendly procedure, like the one performed for take-off by catapult, and can be quickly prepared for another flight “.
The “Rapier X-25” has a maximum weight of 25 kg, which makes it fall within the Mini Class, an operating range of almost 100 km and an autonomy of 6 to 16 hours depending on the mission and the sensor on board. The weight of less than 25 kg, according to the regulations of the European aeronautical bodies EASA and Italian ENAC, allows it to be used by an operator without a pilot’s license, with obvious cost savings. It has already been purchased in two copies by the Air Force for surveillance and intelligence missions. The “Rapier X-SkySAR” version, on the other hand, has a maximum weight of almost 30 kg, which makes it fall within the Light Class, operating range and autonomy similar to the “Rapier X-25”, but with the addition of the opening radar sensor synthetic. It is a “dual use” system and can also be used in a series of civil and governmental activities, including search and rescue, security, aerial photogrammetry, monitoring of large infrastructures (oil pipelines, gas pipelines, power lines, railway networks, highways , etc.), environmental control and precision agriculture.
The Sky Eye Systems company is based in Cascina (Pisa) and was founded in 2017 by an initiative of Eng. Massimo Lucchesini, former CEO of Aermacchi and operational director of Alenia Aermacchi, and by the Tonti family of OMA in Foligno (Perugia), which owns it, to develop a new family of “Small Tactical UAS” (Unmanned Aerial Systems), small tactical drones weighing between 25 and 50 kg.