The Sky-Y, powered by a diesel engine and thrust propeller, was specifically developed as demonstrator of innovative technologies for a surveillance and reconnaissance MALE class remote piloted aircraft. The platform main goals are to experiment rapid prototyping methodologies, including the use of low cost carbon-fiber structures and to evaluate the diesel engine technologies (a common rail engine) of automotive derivation for the aeronautical field. The new engine was intended to minimise consumption, keep lower operational costs, and avoid the need for expensive and increasingly hard-to-find aviation fuel. The Sky-Y flew for the first time in June 2007 and held the continental record of 8 consecutive flight hours for UAVs of below 1,000 kg class, achieved at the Vidsel base in Sweden.
The Sky-Y platform has also been chosen by the European Commission sponsored MIDCAS consortium to demonstrate the in-flight Sense & Avoid system capabilities, providing a proof of concept for rule-makers in the definition of the requirements for traffic separation and mid-air collision avoidance in non-segregated airspace.
In May 2015, from Grazzanise Air Force Base Leonardo’s Aircraft Division successfully completed, with its Sky-Y, an important testing cycle proving its functionality : a a C-27J was intentionally flown close to the Sky-Y at different altitudes and from different directions) to test the capability of the Sky-Y to change course to avoid collision through an automatic manoeuvre. Tests were carried out with an approach of the two aircraft up to 150 metres.
Another objective of the testing was to establish the best sensors combination (by using radio, electro-optical, infra-red and radar systems) in order to feed the traffic gathering system on board the unmanned aerial system.