Following a competitive tender process as well as an extensive technical analysis phase, Airbus has selected Avio Aero from Italy to power the Eurodrone unmanned aerial system with its engine and propeller solution, dubbed Catalyst, known for having several 3D printed parts.
“This selection is a decisive step forward and will ensure that the Eurodrone program can proceed on time, on cost and in line with the specifications laid out by our customers. The Catalyst was identified as the best solution based on superior performance, lower developmental risk, better in-service economics as well as growth potential. In line with customer requirements, Catalyst will offer a truly European solution and will thus contribute to the overall role of Eurodrone as an enabler of strategic autonomy”, said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space.
The Catalyst is an engine proven in flight, entirely developed and manufactured in Europe. As well as the Eurodrone program, this engine has been conceived as 100% ITAR-free (International Traffic in Arms Regulation), thus enabling independence on export chances and avoiding additional requirements prior to export clearance.
As part of its responsibilities as the main subcontractor for this major collaborative European program, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for the selection of the engine supplier. Key aspects in the selection of Eurodrone suppliers are competitiveness, performance, the ability to meet the demanding delivery schedule and the capacity to meet the in-service demand.
The Eurodrone has been conceived as 100% ITAR-free (International Traffic in Arms Regulation) and will be fully certified in Europe. It is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) with versatile and adaptable capabilities that make it ideal for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions or homeland security operations.
“We are honored to have been chosen by Airbus to power Eurodrone”, said Riccardo Procacci, CEO and General Manager of GE Avio Aero. “This is a huge milestone for the European aviation industry enabling the growth of European capabilities and sovereignty and of course all our Catalyst team. We’ve invested in people, resources and infrastructure to begin executing for the program immediately, and our teams across Europe are ready to get to work.
While Avio Aero is owned by GE, a US company, and it is a key asset in GE Additive’s operations, the Catalyst engineering team, as well as the engine’s supply chain and assembly is based in the industrial European ecosystem. The sites involved are Avio Aero in Italy and Poland, GE Aviation Turboprop in Czech Republic, the GE Aviation Advanced Technology Center in Munich (Germany), and the GE Engineering Design Center in Warsaw (Poland).
The Catalyst engine, currently performing flight testing campaigns, is the first turboprop in aviation history built with multiple 3D printed components, enabling a lighter and more efficient engine that is ideal for long-endurance drones. The Catalyst delivers 20% lower fuel consumption, 10% more cruising power and payload, enabling 3 more hours on a typical UAV mission versus current turboprop engines.