Italians Unveil HammerHead Drone

HammerheadPARIS — Italian aviation firm Piaggio Aero unveiled Tuesday the HammerHead unmanned aircraft system along with Selex ES here at the Paris Air Show marking the first time an Italian company has developed a large scale UAS.

The international market continues to demand medium to large sized unmanned aircraft. It’s a market that U.S. and Israeli defense firms have dominated. 

The P1HH Hammerhead is a sign that growth is coming outside the two leaders. China and Russian defense companies are also looking to expand the number of larger scale drones they produce.

The Hammerhead can climb to 35,000 feet in 20 minutes and operate with a 45,000 foot ceiling. The UAS is designed as a surveillance aircraft with an endurance of 16 hours carrying 500 pounds of payload and a range of up to 4,400 nautical miles.

Piaggio Aero was the prime contractor and built the aircraft while Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company, integrated the sensors and the operating system.

The aircraft was first announced in February at the IDEX defense show in Abu Dhabi. The drone is yet to fly, but officials said it’s in the final stages of preflight clearance trials. Selex ES leaders said they expect the first flight to occur within a year.

With defense budgets shrinking across the world, Piaggio Aero and Selex ES expect the HammerHead to receive plenty of attention because they plan to price it well below similar U.S. and Israeli models, said Norman Bone, managing director for Selex ES’ Airborne and Space Systems Division.

Bone said it would be hard to compare the HammerHead to a U.S. drone, but said it is similar to the Hermes produced by Elbit Systems in Israel.

The companies don’t have near term plans to arm the aircraft, but Bone said it could be part of the future development.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • theyknowwho

    Pandora’s box has been opened and everyone is fair game. All those thought this a good idea that now other nations are rushing to get their owns for the very same reason the originators invented theirs? Nobody is safe.

    • Russell Romick

      That did not start with drones arriving on the scene. Easy to blame technology. Surveillance was already pushing the limits of legality before drones, they just make it easier to do and give operators more flexibility in the field if a target of opportunity arises. Drones do not need to land to eat or get some sack time.

    • Blue

      It was bound to happen sooner or later. Did you think that unmanned aerial vehicles wouldn’t someday become commonly used?

  • Ricky

    Its pretty.

  • Rob C.

    Looks like their using existing airframe designs to make UAS, which would be the cheaper route to do. Question is what kind of quality and performance this will be delievering.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Specs on the P.180 Avanti, which this is a development from.
      With all the crew and passenger features stripped, should provide a decent increase in useful load.

      General characteristics
      Crew: one or two pilots
      Capacity: up to nine passengers
      Cabin dimensions: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) high, 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) wide, 4.45 m (14 ft 7 in) long
      Payload: 907 kg (2,000 lb)
      Length: 14.41 m (47 ft 3½ in)
      Wingspan: 14.03 m (46 ft 0½ in)
      Height: 3.97 m (13 ft 0¾ in)
      Wing area: 16 m² (172.2 ft²)
      Foreplane area: 2.19 m² (23.59 ft²)
      Horizontal stabilizer area: 3.83 m² (41.27 ft²)
      Empty weight: 3,400 kg (7,500 lb)
      Useful load: 1,860 kg (4,100 lb)
      Max. takeoff weight: 5,239 kg (11,550 lb)
      Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 turboprop, 634 kW (850 shp) each
      Maximum speed: 737 km/h (398 kn, 458 mph)
      Cruise speed: 732 km/h (395 kn, 455 mph) cruise at 30,000 ft, 660 km/h (356 kn, 410 mph) economy cruise at 39,000 ft
      Stall speed: 172 km/h (93 kn, 107 mph)
      Range: 2,795 km (1,509 NM, 1,737 mi) at 11,900 m (39,000 ft) IFR
      Service ceiling: 12,500 m (41,000 ft)
      Rate of climb: 15 m/s (2,950 ft/min)
      Wing loading: 327 kg/m² (67.1 lb/ft²)
      Power/mass: 0.24 kW/kg (6.79 lb/hp
      Fuel economy: 0.84 NM/Lbs @FL410 and 316 KTAS)

    • Mystick

      I concur. It look like a mod on a civilian light transport.

    • Papi1960R

      Made a few flights in IAF Avantis from Sigonella to Aviano and back. They are deluxe! We could learn a lot about quality from smaller countries and companies that aren’t real familiar to Americans. Most Americans,those who have even heard of Piaggio) assume they just made Vespa Scooters.

  • hibeam

    We have drones. Just not the will to use them. When we see Taliban stacked up like cordwood at a funeral we hold our fire.

  • David

    Reminds me a bit of the old Beech Starship – cool looking design!

  • Scott

    good timing, with eurohawk gone, NATO and EU, will need a cheaper alternative, does not perform as well as a global hawk, but certainly cheaper,,, good way to monitor the med for illegals from african who are bleeding europe from its southern boarders

    • hibeam

      Illegals make economies boom. Get with the PC view not reality.

  • hibeam

    We have the Dunderhead drone. Works fine. The Commander in Golf won’t use it.

  • Edger

    Looks like a Predator drone with a pusher engine.

  • Restore Palestine

    So, are we going to start have defense thread about a Predator, or X-47B, pitted against foreign machines in vicious dog fights?

    • tiger

      In my lifetime, yes.

  • hibeam

    I am surprised anyone would build a drone. According to our Pakistani allies they only kill small children and puppies. Goats have been wounded. No enemy combatants have been hurt.

  • USN-Fan

    This is based on their existing design for a commuter aircraft for short to medium ranged regional market routes. All they’ve done is automate the cockpit, omit all the windows, expanded the fuel capacity, and added the capability for a modular ELINT/Comms/surveilance payload. Seems a relatively safe route to go and a new potential market for the airframe. Smart idea.

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