Optionally Piloted Tecnam P92 Cleared for Takeoff

Italy’s CIRA aerospace research center plans to test the modified LSA two-seater under conditions that could permit flight without a pilot.

Tecnam P92 FLARE
FLARE is a Tecnam P92 two-seater that will be tested as an optionally piloted airplane.CIRA

It’s a great name for an optionally piloted airplane. FLARE, the Flying Laboratory for Aeronautical Research, will take to the skies soon as part of an Italian aerospace research center project that will transform a Tecnam P92 two-seater into an unmanned, or at least unpiloted, test bed.

Italy’s civil aviation authority has signed off on a series of more than 30 test flights to be conducted over the next year. The testing will take place via the EU’s Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) joint program under an air traffic monitoring integration project for remotely piloted air systems (RPAS). Terms of the permit require a pilot to be onboard the P92 at all times and for the airplane to remain in VFR conditions.

Aurora Flight Sciences of the United States and Diamond Aircraft in Austria have tested an optionally piloted DA42 twin targeted at the spyplane market. Some futurologists think so-called OPVs could eventually be integrated into the air transportation system to allow passengers to fly with no pilot on board. If Italy’s FLARE project proves successful, it could signal a big step in that direction.