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Leonardo-Finmeccanica launches MALE RPAS program in Europe

By Ryan Maass
Leonardo-Finmeccanica launches MALE RPAS program in Europe
MALE RPAS will support European common defense missions. Photo by the European Defence Agency.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Leonardo-Finmeccanica led other security industry giants in launching the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System program.

The project will facilitate the creation of new remotely piloted aircraft systems to support European intelligence-gathering missions. Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence joined Leonardo-Finmeccinca in launching the program.

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"Successfully teaming European nations, industries and defense ministries to improve sovereignty and independence is an outstanding mission, and today marks a new milestone in this innovative partnership," Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke said in a press release.

All three companies have been selected as co-contractors for a definition study to support the European defense project. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be designed for armed intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions. Development is set to begin following the two-year definition study in 2018.

Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, or MALE RPAS, will have both military and civilian applications. In addition to intelligence gathering, the drones will be used for infrastructure surveillance, firefighting, border control, and disaster relief efforts.

"The European Male RPAS programme is a unique opportunity to promote the development of high technologies expertise, capabilities and jobs, of fundamental importance within Europe," Leonardo-Finmeccanica managing director Filippo Bagnato added.

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European defense officials estimate prototype flight tests to begin in 2023, and the first delivery in 2025.

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