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The Italian stylings of the Sky-Y aerial drone

Alenia Aeronautica hopes to get a foothold in the UAV market--and save gas with carbon fiber and diesel propulsion technologies.

Alenia Aeronautica

While hardly the Armani of unmanned air vehicles, this Italian robo-plane's gourd-like form and earthy, ochre hue could fit right in with your autumnal cornucopia squash arrangement.

But the plane's paisanos are aiming a bit higher. The Sky-Y Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned, flying machino is one part of Rome-based Alenia Aeronautica's effort (PDF) to stake a claim in the expanding UAV world market.

Stretching a substantial 10 meters wing to wing, the Sky-Y's main innovations are its all-composite structure, a Dieseljet TDA 1.9 liter, direct-injection engine and its two-part ground station--one for the operators and the other for services--both of which fit into standard NATO C-27J airliftable modules. The main gear is fixed, which is unfortunate from an aesthetic standpoint, but the nose gear is retractable so that's something.

The aircraft is designed to operate in either civil or military capacity for up to 14 hours at more than 25,000 feet, with a 1,200-kilogram takeoff weight. Payloads will include EO/IR sensor and hyperspectral cameras. The data gathered will be processed and fused in flight by high-speed on-board computer systems from Quadrics.

The company hopes the use of light, carbon-fiber construction and diesel-propulsion technology will reduce both costs and pollution. It plans to have the Sky-Y on the market by 2011.