STA, 31 May 2020 - Ultralight aircraft made by the Ajdovščina-based Pipistrel have joined the US Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) fleet as low-cost, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, in what is seen as a major step for the Slovenian company.
The news was revealed by SOCOM last week after seven years of classified collaboration and confirmed by Pipistrel, which said its specially prepared airframes are being used with "sensors to collect full-motion video and signals intelligence".
The company said its surveillance platform can be fitted with a multitude of sensors, with endurance ranging from 8 to more than 30 hours at low, medium and high altitudes, all at a fraction of the cost of conventional solutions.
"It is interesting that the American army and the military aviation industry are the largest exporters of aircraft in the world, but then they come to the small Slovenia and even smaller Ajdovščina for such special aircraft because they cannot make such good ones at such a price themselves," Pipistrel founded and CEO Ivo Boscarol told the STA.
Boscarol acknowledges that the deliveries are part of large, multi-million deals, but said the amounts were subject to trade secrecy.
He expects that interest in this segment of the company's production will grow now that the deliveries have been confirmed.
"In recent days we've received concrete inquiries from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for similar aircraft. Working for the US military means working to the highest standards and if they accept you, the product is good and recognized anywhere in the world, be it a friend or foe of the US."
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STA, 20 April 2020 - Ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel has started developing cargo aircraft, a sort of a flying van, and a hydrogen-powered passenger shuttle, the company's CEO and founder Ivo Boscarol has said after the aviation authorities rescheduled the launch of its flying taxis.
An extended deadline for the development of flying taxis, commissioned by US ride-hailing company Uber, has enabled the Ajdovščina-based Pipistrel to start working on the planned freighter.
Meanwhile, the hydrogen-powered jet for 19 passengers would be intended mainly for transport between cities, for example from Maribor to Zagreb, said Boscarol.
"Currently, there are no such transports, only on roads. That is one of niche markets and the company has started working on its conceptual development," he told the press a few days ago.
Apart from a spacious facility, manufacturing the shuttles would require vast electricity capacities - the planes would be thus made in Italy, a more ideal setting than Ajdovščina, since all the required conditions are met there, he added.
The development of flying taxis for Uber has slowed down due to a "more conservative approach to using such aircraft" taken by international aviation authorities.
The taxis are supposed to be flying mainly above cities, which are considered a challenging ecosystem. The authorities have hence postponed using such vessels until the end of this decade.
As a result, Pipistrel has somewhat shifted its focus to developing a similar aircraft designed to transport cargo, an electricity-powered flying van that is supposed to fly above smaller cities.
Boscarol believes that the freighter will be launched prior to the Uber taxi.
Meanwhile, the company's investments in new plants in China and Italy have been brought to a standstill. The project in China saw zero activity in the past four months, with the investment estimated to be two years behind schedule.
On the other hand, the first phase of the investment in expanding manufacturing capacities at Gorizia Airport is completed, but the company has been deliberately moving slowly to see what happens with the airport.
"The airport was operating for a while, but it's closed now. We can fly in Slovenia, so we fly here now. The company is lucky to have two locations at its disposal," said Boscarol.
The plant in the making near the Slovenian-Italian border is meant to be for producing drones and bigger aircraft.
STA, 5 March 2020 - The Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel has signed a letter of intent with Australian company Eyre to There for the production of the electric two-seaters Alpha Electro. In the first phase 15 aircraft are to be exported to Australia, later the aircraft would be produced there.
Eyre to There would thus become the first producer of electric planes in Australia. It could produce up to a hundred planes a year, Pipistrel told the STA, adding that the deal with the Australian company is still in its initial phase.
A two-seat electric plane is ideal for flight training, Eyre to There CEO Barrie Rogers told the Australian magazine Aviation.
The 250 flight schools registered in Australia are currently using some 3,400 aircraft for training. A quarter of the training is dedicated to take-offs and landing near airports and Pipistrel's aircraft are very much appropriate for this, Rogers said.
STA, 12 November 2019 - The ultralight electric aircraft maker Pipistrel confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a bid for the Adria Airways flight school, which is part of the bankruptcy estate of the former flag carrier. Pipistrel is bidding for the school as a whole, including all its assets, brand and licence.
A day after the call for bids for Adria assets came to a conclusion, Pipistrel owner Ivo Boscarol told the STA that the company wanted to keep the pilot school at Brnik airport and also expand it to Maribor airport.
"Pipistrel already has its own aviation academy but we would like to upgrade it with Adria's and merge them," said Boscarol.
The plan is to move Pipistrel's aviation academy, now based in Ajdovščina, to Brnik and in part to Maribor airport, with the latter being very suitable for pilot training, both at the beginners' level as well as advanced, according to Boscarol.
He said that Pipistrel had decided to bid because Adria's flight school had a very good reputation. "The Adria brand stood for high-quality training and we want it to stay in Slovenian hands," he said.
The merger with Pipistrel's aviation academy would also benefit the Adria flight school, which would get an on-line academy, allowing advanced training to pilots for large aircraft.
Moreover, some of Adria's students have already switched to Pipistrel after the receivership was launched in late September, and so did some of the Adria instructors, he added.
Adria Airways receiver Janez Pustatičnik announced today that five bids came in for the flag carrier's estate. He also said that he would meet with potential buyers on Thursday and Friday and that one bidder was from abroad.
According to public broadcaster TV Slovenija, bids have also been submitted by another two Slovenian entrepreneurs.
Joc Pečečnik, who owns a gaming products maker, has submitted a bid for the entire estate in cooperation with a partner from abroad.
The business newspaper Finance meanwhile said that Pečenik's plan was to build a new Adria with the help of the carrier's former CEO Mark Anžur.
Meanwhile, produce importer and real estate developer Izet Rastoder is bidding for the carrier's air operator's certificate (AOC), the licence that permits commercial flying.
STA, 22 August 2019 - Pipistrel, the Ajdovščina-based aircraft maker, has posted a new success as the first woman ever crossed the Atlantic and Pacific solo on its ultralight aircraft. This was after one of its planes crash landed in Norway.
Aarohi Pandit, a 23-year-old from Mumbai, made history on Wednesday as she landed safely in Russia's Far East region of Chukotka, having flown from Alaska's Unalakleet city across the Pacific Ocean's Bering Sea.
Aarohi, who is on a global flight in Pipistrel's single-engine Sinus 912 aircraft, had earlier already become the first woman in the world to cross the Atlantic Ocean and Greenland solo in a light sports plane.
Initially, the young pilot flew with her friend across India's Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Serbia, Slovenia, Germany, France and Britain.
However, since the tiny cockpit had to be equipped with a life-raft, oxygen system and other safety gadgets for the trans-oceanic flights, Aarohi undertook the remaining expedition solo.
Apart from good news, the Slovenian aircraft maker also had bad news after its two-seater all-electric plane was forced to crash land into a lake in Norway last week. No one was injured in the incident.
According to a report by Forbes, the plane, owned by Norway's airport operator Avinor, was being used to showcase the opportunities of electric power in aviation. It was piloted by Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen with State Secretary Aase Marthe J. Horrigmo on board.
The plane took off from Arendal airport, some 285 kilometres south-west of Oslo. Whilst in the air, there was a signal that something was wrong with the engine power, whereupon the engine power weakened and disappeared completely, said the pilot, who landed the aircraft onto a pond.
Forbes commented that the incident would come as a setback to Norway's electric aircraft plans. However, the setback may not be as big because Norway's authorities have ordered two more same-model aircraft from Pipistrel despite the incident.
The Slovenian company confirmed it was made aware of the incident involving its Experimental class Alpha Electro in Norway on 14 August, saying it had activated its team of experts and offered assistance to the investigation authorities to investigate and determine the causes which led to the accident.
"Initial reports indicate loss of power which resulted in a forced landing. There were no human injuries and that safety mechanisms built into the design of the airplane and its systems acted nominally. There was no high voltage shock to the crew when the aircraft and crew were in water," reads the company's release.
This was the third incident involving the model, according to Aviation Safety Network; Pipistrel has so far supplied more than 60 Alpha Electros. In January an aircraft in Switzerland had to make an emergency landing because of loss of engine power and in October last year a crash claimed a human life in the Netherlands in unknown circumstances.
A total of 77 teams competed in the 2018-2019 Textron Aviation/Raytheon Missile Systems/AIAA Foundation Student Design/Build/Fly (DBF) Competition, held April 11-14, at the Tucson International Modelplex Park Association (TIMPA) Airfield, Tucson, Arizona. Fifty-six teams were from within the United States, while 21 came from abroad, including the winning team – from the University of Ljubljana. In second place was the ream from Georgia Tech, while third place was taken by Austria's FH Joanneum of Applied Sciences.
The team of 17 students from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering took part in it under the mentorship of Dr. Viktor Šajn, and was led by the engineering student Timotej Hofbauer. The group chose to build the aircraft entirely from composites with the help from sponsors Pipistrel, Akrapovič, and Zavod404.
Speaking about the project, and quoted on the University’s website, Hofbauer said: “We have been building the aircraft for more than half a year and committed more than 2000 hours of work to it. We succeeded in building an incredibly fast and light composite aircraft that can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and is capable of flying at the competitive speed for more than 10 minutes. The aircraft, ready to fly, weighs approximately 9 kg, of which 35 % constitute the batteries alone. It can carry 18 “bombs” and has a wing span of 2.5 meters.”
As noted in the related press release from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation, “the DBF competition encourages and recognises excellence in aerospace engineering skills at the undergraduate and graduate levels by challenging teams to design and fabricate a radio-controlled aircraft conforming to strict guidelines, submit a written report about the aircraft's design, and fly their aircraft over a defined course while carrying a payload and landing it without damage. This year, the design simulated a multi-purpose aircraft to support carrier operations.”
More photos from this year’s event can be seen here, while the following video (from 2018) gives a flavour of the event.
STA, 15 October 2018 - Ivo Boscarol, the co-owner and director of the Ajdovščina-based ultra-light aircraft maker Pipistrel, announced the past weekend that he would move a part of production to Italy's Gorizia. His statement comes amid a row with the government over plans for a capital gains tax.