Officially unveiled on March 4th, just prior to the Heli-Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, USA, the revolutionary AgustaWestland “Project Zero” all-electric tiltrotor technology demonstrator is the result of close collaborations with Finmeccanica companies – Selex ES, Ansaldo Breda, and Ansaldo Energia – and partner companies from Italy, U.K., U.S.A. and Japan. Dr. James Wang, Vice President of Research and Technology at AgustaWestland, said, “Project Zero was a fast-paced, complex project involving partners and suppliers across different time zones. Our partners worked with great enthusiasm under the leadership of AgustaWestland R&T Advanced Concepts Group to bring this revolutionary concept to life. This is the first time multiple subsidiaries in the Finmeccanica Group collaborated with so many innovative companies, outside of traditional aerospace industry, in one advanced demonstrator program.”
Stile Bertone of Italy worked closely with AgustaWestland in developing the aesthetically pleasing styling and aerodynamically unique tiltrotor configuration. To maximize strength and minimize weight, the entire aircraft exterior surface is carbon graphite and it was produced by Lola Composite in the UK. Sistemi Dinamici is a high tech engineering company jointly owned by AgustaWestland and IDS of Pisa, Italy. Sistemi Dinamici was instrumental to “Project Zero” by working closely with the AgustaWestland Advanced Concept Group on Flight Control System and Rotor design. The technologies developed by each partner are being fed into their various industrial sectors to bring value to each company. Selex ES contributed with the High-Integrity Flight Control Computer and Actuator Control Unit using software provided by Wind River. Ansaldo Breda drew on their vast expertise in designing and building high-speed electric trains to custom produce the electric motor inverter and motor control algorithm. Ansaldo Energia specializes in manufacturing megawatts power generators has provided valuable expertise on the alternative hybrid electric-diesel solution.
Other partners and suppliers around the world that have contributed to “Project Zero” include Lucchi R. Elettromeccanica, a Rimini-based motor company, custom designed and built the axial flux permanent magnet electric motors. The aerodynamic properties of the rotor blades were designed by AgustaWestland and Rotor Systems Research LLC of USA. The composite structure for the blades, shrouds and spokes were designed by the Advanced Concepts Group and AgustaWestland Japan Asia Technology Center, then manufactured by UCHIDA in Japan. The high bandwidth electromechanical actuators (EMA) for the innovative swashplateless individual blade control system were specifically developed by Microtecnica for “Project Zero”. The entire aircraft uses no hydraulics; the retractable landing gear, nacelle tilting mechanism, and elevons are controlled by EMA. ORAL Engineering developed an efficient diesel engine for the alternative electric-hybrid propulsion solution and provided rapid CNC machining for the rotor and drive system. MB Motorsport, Aerosviluppi and Marc’Ingegno customized the special motor cooling system, wiring harness and retractable landing gears, respectively. The “Project Zero” technology demonstrator was designed, built and tested in twelve months.