A drone from Leonardo’s Falco family, which has been flying over the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2013 on behalf of an International Organization, has recorded imagery of the erupting Nyiragongo volcano, supporting relief efforts in the city of Goma.
Houndreds of high-resolution images and video were captured by the Falco EVO drone and analyzed in real-time by an international team, helping authorities to coordinate the safe evacuation of residents. Volcano experts also used the imagery to forecast the evolution of the eruption.
The mission saw the Falco EVO depart from the its local operations base in the city of Beni and conduct multiple five-hours observation flights over the eruption zone, gathering information on Nyiragongo’s crater and slopes and recording the lava flow from multiple different angles, supporting the emergency response.
The Falco EVO drone is designed for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles and has a number of characteristics that make it an ideal tool for such missions: monitoring wide areas of land and sea and enabling targeted interventions to take place in a timely manner. These include its ability to fly any time, day and night, its more than 16 hours of flight endurance, its 100kg of sensors capacity and its communications capabilities which allow the aircraft to transmit high-quality images and data in real time.
Its ability to operate in dangerous areas and adverse environmental conditions also make the Falco EVO a flexible and effective counterpart to manned aircraft, with which it can interoperate, as well as ground control stations and other remotely-piloted aircraft.
The Falco EVO is the advanced version of Leonardo’s successful Falco medium-altitude tactical unmanned air system, with the two sharing the same airframe and control station. More than 60 Falco family aircraft are currently operated worldwide. A notable mission was the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)’s maritime surveillance test programme, under which the Falco EVO has conducted surveillance flights from the Lampedusa Air Base in Italy.
Leonardo is among the first companies in the world to offer a service model for unmanned surveillance missions. This sees Leonardo carry out operations on behalf of customers, owning and operating the air systems and providing information directly to customers’ command and control centres. In order to deliver this model, Leonardo has been authorized as an Air Service Operator by Italy’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC).