Leonardo receives Italy’s National Award for Innovation for technology that will help ensure the in-flight safety of unmanned aircraft

Leonardo-Finmeccanica has been awarded the most prestigious Italian award dedicated to domestic ‘made in Italy’ innovation. The National Award for Innovation was awarded during a ceremony at the Quirinal Palace, overseen by the President of the Italian Republic.

The award, highlighting Leonardo’s credentials in technology innovation, is for a project that seeks to prevent the risk of in-flight collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft, thus assuring the safety of civil airspace.

Set up by the Italian Government through COTEC, the National Foundation for Technological Innovation, the National Award for Innovation (often referred to as the Award of Awards) is designed to highlight and support the most innovative and creative capabilities present in a number of sectors including industry, design, universities, research and services.

“This award is an important acknowledgement – underlines Mauro Moretti, Chief Executive Officer and General Director of Leonardohighlighting a project in a rapidly expanding market segment, unmanned aircraft, which is also a highly relevant topic worldwide. Drone safety is an essential prerequisite to the building of an integrated airspace and for the development of a sector able to offer significant industrial opportunities and technological development to our country. Unmanned aerial vehicles represent the last business frontier for the aerospace and defence industry and Leonardo is among the few companies worldwide to possess a wide range of technologies in this sector".

The innovative technology at the core of the winning project has been developed by an integrated work team comprising Leonardo Aircraft Division and Leonardo’s Electronics, Defence and Security Systems Sector. The latter has contributed to the development of the Sense & Avoid feature, based on electro-optic and radar sensors, required to prevent in-flight collision risks. Leonardo Aircraft has integrated the system on board its Sky-Y UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and has coordinated the flight tests. The technology demonstrator stemming from the project represents a significant step towards the insertion of UAVs within conventional aviation routes and to overcoming current restrictions which limit UAV flights to separate “corridors”.

The citation for the award also highlighted how the result, achieved within the bounds of the European MIDCAS (MID air Collision Avoidance System) research project, represents the first European example of S&A avionics system integration on-board a UAV.

Technological innovation is an essential part of Leonardo’s growth strategy. With this in mind, the company has organised its own in-house Leonardo Innovation Award for more than ten years, offering employees worldwide the opportunity to submit new ideas and receive awards for their contribution to the company’s continued progress. Since last year, Leonardo has opened the award to young students, graduates and doctoral students from the scientific disciplines at Italy’s universities, to help stimulate new ideas and offer entrants additional contact with the company, potentially leading to future employment.


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