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Piaggio Risks Failure As Italy Cancels € 250M Drone Order

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Piaggio Risks Failure As Italy Cancels € 250M Drone Order

(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; posted April 05, 2019)

The Piaggio P.1 HH Hammerhead medium altitude, long endurance drone is basically an unmanned version of the company’s P.180 Avanti twin-turboprop business aircraft, but despite its initial promise orders have not materialized. (Piaggio photo)

PARIS --- Italian Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta announced yesterday that she has decided to cancel the planned € 250 million purchase of eight P.1HH drones produced by Piaggio Aerospace, Italy’s only manufacturer of large drones.

The company, which has over a thousand employees, has been in crisis for some time; it is now under administration, and risks failure after losing the contract, Il Post.it reported Thursday. Trenta said the ministry continues to "support the creation of suitable conditions" to keep the company running, and mentioned the possibility of buying some of the company’s P180 Avanti twin-turboprop business aircraft to replace the ministry’s current fleet.

However, there are doubts about the aircraft’s performance, and in a recent parliamentary hearing the Italian Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Alberto Rosso, called the aircraft "eight pieces of iron."

The Italian Air Force signed an agreement to become the P.1HH’s “launch customer” at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi in February 2015, and was initially due to order three systems, each comprising two aircraft and a ground station. The UAE Air Force was due to order another eight systems; Mubadala Development, a unit of the UAE sovereign fund, owned 50% of Piaggio Aerospace equity.

However, the only PP.1HH prototype was lost when it crashed into the sea off Sicily in May 2016 during flight trials, which brought the program to a standstill.

Trenta’s decision to cancel the order seems to be due as much to the unsatisfactory performance of the drone as to doubts about the company’s viability after Mubadala sold its stake and pulled out.

After P.1HH, Piaggio Aerospace had begun to develop a new model, the P.2HH, which was considered to offer better prospects, it was still in the initial design phase when development was suspended when the company went into administration.

The Italian government, along with the United Arab Emirates sovereign fund Mubadala Development, which owned half of the company, were to have invested nearly € 800 million in the project. Despite Trenta's promise to continue investing, P.2HH project was quietly dropped, and nothing more has been heard about the planned investment.