Leonardo’s Somerset site to become hub for unmanned military VTOL aircraft as MOD invests £60m

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The Future Capability Group (FCG) of the UK Department of Defence, Defense Equipment and Support (DE&S), has awarded a four-year contract worth £60 million to Leonardo for the delivery of the Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System (RWUAS) Technology Demonstration Program (TDP), “RWUAS CCD Phase 3 TDP”.

This Defense Innovation-funded program will include the flight of an advanced prototype unmanned VTOL called by the British MOD “Proteus”. Proteus is a key part of the Royal Navy’s Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF) vision for anti-submarine warfare support.

The award supports the company’s strategic aim for its site in Yeovil, Somerset, already the ‘home of British helicopters’, to grow and also become the UK’s hub for unmanned military aircraft. Internationally, Leonardo is already at the heart of many forward-looking unmanned research and innovation programs, ranging from advanced air mobility to unmanned combat air, counter-UAS technologies and unmanned traffic management. The company has demonstrated its industry expertise and capabilities in major European exercises such as Unmanned Warrior, Italian Blade and OCEAN 2020.


Jessica Langdon – Craft Composites Fitter Apprentice at work. 1 credit


In the UK, Leonardo is a close partner of the MOD and has already invested heavily in shore-based unmanned military capabilities. At Yeovil, specialist skills in helicopter design and engineering have made the site a focus for unmanned systems. The company has already conducted a number of advanced research projects under RWUAS Phases 1 and 2. Phase 3 will support and expand this onshore design and technology development capability by preparing an all-new unmanned prototype for its maiden flight.

Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters (UK), said: “VTOL unmanned aircraft will transform military capabilities while also having applications in other market sectors, both in the UK and globally. This contract represents a major step towards our future in unmanned military technology. next-generation crew and maintaining unique engineering skills ashore.

Following the learnings and technology developed during the first two phases of the RWUAS CCD program, Phase 3 will see Leonardo create a demonstration aircraft up to 2-3 t that will have modularity at its core. The dual-purpose RWUAS prototype will be adapted to fulfill a wide range of military and parastatal roles. These include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, specific maritime missions and logistics supply. The high payload and large volume capabilities, combined with the ability to operate in harsh environmental conditions, should appeal to a wide range of potential users.

The majority of the program, which leverages Leonardo’s full range of end-to-end capabilities, from design to manufacturing, will be conducted at the company’s premises in Yeovil. It will maintain and develop essential skills and generate high value-added design engineering opportunities. A core team of around 60 people will be employed on the program, which is expected to expand to around 100 people.

The UK MoD’s RWUAS CCD Phase 2 contract builds on the research and development activity that began under the RWUAS CCD Phase 1 program between 2013 and 2015. vehicle technologies and platform operations , in future operating environments, fleet mixes and the overall structure of defense aviation capabilities.

Leonardo is the only company in Europe able to provide complete solutions by designing and developing all the elements of unmanned systems: platforms, sensors, mission systems, control stations and to offer customers a certified capacity at low risk, high efficiency and fully integrated. The continuous development and integration of state-of-the-art solutions in all areas of remotely piloted and autonomous/semi-autonomous systems and technologies is a key element of Leonardo’s BeTomorrow2030 strategic plan.

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