AgustaWestland unveils“Project Zero” tilt rotor technology demonstrator


AgustaWestland has unveiled its “Project Zero” tilt rotor technology demonstrator. Designed and built in less than 6 months, the demonstrator is to be funded solely by AgustaWestland.

The tilt rotor technology demonstrator is electric powered and is designed to hover like a helicopter and convert to a fixed wing aircraft in forward flight using two integrated rotors which can be tilted through more than 90 degrees.

The demonstrator performed its first unmanned tethered flight in June 2011 at AgustaWestland’s Cascina Costa facility in Italy and has since performed hovering flights inside a secured area, AgustaWestland said in a statement.

Daniele Romiti, AgustaWestland’s CEO, said “The ‘Project Zero’ technology demonstrator programme brings together many of the advanced technologies AgustaWestland has been researching in recent years and demonstrates our strong technological base from which we will develop new products to meet the needs of our customers in the future. We strongly believe in the tilt rotor concept as the future of high speed rotorcraft flight as it offers much greater speed and range than compound helicopter technology.”
“This is a wonderful achievement of the AgustaWestland Advanced Concepts Group. A team of passionate and brilliant engineers worked extremely hard in a secure facility to conceive, design, build and test this technology demonstrator in an exceptionally short period of time,” said Dr James Wang, Vice President of Research and Technology at AgustaWestland.
“This group lives to dream, and if it can be dreamed, it can be built. The team did not just build an electric powered airplane or helicopter; that would have been too easy. They went all out and built a twin rotor electric tiltrotor with no transmission or swashplates.”

The demonstrator’s rotors are driven by electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries; future hybrid solutions have also been investigated using a diesel engine to drive a generator. All of the aircraft control systems, flight control and landing gear actuators are electrically powered, eliminating the need for any hydraulic systems.

During cruise, the wings will provide most of the lift, with the blended fuselage and shroud also making a contribution. ‘Project Zero’ has been designed with detachable outer wings for missions that will be performed primarily in helicopter mode. Elevons provide pitch and roll control in forward flight while the V-tail provides longitudinal stability. The aircraft has very low noise and thermal signature in flight and does not require oxygen (due to its electric motors), thereby permitting it to fly at altitude or in heavily polluted conditions, such as volcanic eruptions, described AgustaWestland in a statement.