Paris Airshow 2013: Drone doubles on the rise

CNN’s Bryony Jones reports from the 50th Paris Airshow at Le Bourget. Follow CNN coverage of this year’s Paris Airshow.

As the aviation industry tightens its belt, its attempts to save money and stay relevant have led to a new rise of “transformers” — including crop-dusters and business jets given a new lease of life as surveillance aircraft.

With the financial crisis continuing to bite — not least in the U.S. defense sector — more and more aircraft manufacturers are trying to secure their future by turning older aviation staples into innovative new ones, creating a new breed of “transformers.”

In a former life, Piaggio Aero’s HammerHead was a business jet (the Avanti II), used to ferry well-to-do travelers to and from high-powered meetings or red carpet events.

Today the twin-engine turboprop is being turned into a drone, with surveillance equipment and remote flying systems replacing the nine passengers and pilot.

Unveiling the new-look aircraft at last week’s Paris Airshow, Piaggio Aero’s CEO Alberto Galassi said the HammerHead — which the company expects to be approved for use by 2014 — offered “an insight into what an advanced UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] of the future will look like.”

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