Das­sault’s UCAV in for­ma­tion


Das­sault Avi­a­tion or­gan­ised a for­ma­tion flight of the nEU­ROn un­manned com­bat air ve­hi­cle (UCAV) with a Rafale fighter and a Fal­con 7X busi­ness jet. This was the first time in the world that a com­bat drone flew in for­ma­tion with other air­craft. The en­tire oper­a­tion lasted one hour and 50 min­utes and took the pa­trol out over the Mediter­ranean to a range of sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres.

Ac­cord­ing to Eric Trap­pier, Chair­man and CEO of Das­sault Avi­a­tion, “This achieve­ment clearly re­flects our ex­per­tise in state-of-theart tech­nolo­gies. Our skills in both mil­i­tary and civil avi­a­tion mu­tu­ally en­rich each other, en­abling us to de­sign ex­cep­tional air­planes suited for both the armed forces and Fal­con busi­ness jet oper­a­tors.”

Or­gan­is­ing a for­ma­tion flight like this was a daunt­ing chal­lenge: for each ma­noeu­vre in the planned se­quence, air­craft from dif­fer­ent hold­ing points and with very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics had to fly along­side each other in a con­fined space.

An additional chal­lenge was be­ing able to con­trol a pi­lot­less air­craft fly­ing near four other air­craft, all manned (Rafale, Fal­con 7X and two chase air­craft for pho­tog­ra­phy). En­gi­neers had to plan ahead to take into ac­count the risk of in­ter­fer­ence, in­clud­ing aero­dy­namic tur­bu­lence be­tween the air­craft, not to men­tion elec­tro­mag­netic in­ter­fer­ence (EMI) with com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the nEU­ROn drone and its ground con­trol sta­tion.

nEU­ROn is a Euro­pean pro­gramme for an un­manned com­bat air ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy demon­stra­tor, con­ducted by Das­sault Avi­a­tion as prime con­trac­tor un­der the author­ity of French de­fence pro­cure­ment agency DGA. It her­alds to­mor­row’s de­fence pro­grammes, since it fed­er­ates ex­per­tise from across Europe (France, Italy, Swe­den, Spain, Greece and Switzer­land).

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