aircraft built, at an acceptable weight
and reasonable cost. Therefore, as a
“technology incubator,” it is a long way
from being optimized for production.
AgustaWestland declined to provide
any physical dimensions or performance
details on the aircraft, but stated that it
had tiltrotor-like disk loading and would
achieve tiltrotor-type speeds with a
suitable powerplant. The European
Union patent, EP2551190(A1), filed July
29, 2011 and granted January 30, 2013,
states the aircraft, referred to as a
“Convertiplane,”would have “a cruising
speed of roughly 500 km/h [270 kt] …
and a typical cruising height of 7500
metres [25,000 ft], which is roughly
twice that of a helicopter, and enables it
to fly above most cloud formations and
atmospheric disturbance.”
Patents (with Wang as the inventor)
were also granted in parallel in the
United States, US2013026303 (A1);
Korea, KR20130014450 (A); Japan,
JP2013032147 (A), and
China, CN102897317 (A). It appears that
the patents’ approval and publication
just a few weeks before Heli-Expo were
factors in the company’s decision to
announce the project. AgustaWestland
has submitted many other patent
Based on the available public-
domain photos, it appears to the author
the rotor is approximately 10 ft (3 m) in
diameter and the wingspan about 43 ft
(13 m), which would make the length
about 26 ft (8 m).
Project Team
gustaWestland used a “Skunk
Works” type philosophy in getting
the team to work together at
peak efficiency.“The soft benefits
[management] were as great as or
greater than the technical
achievements,”Wang states. The
handpicked team was comprised mostly
of “young, passionate engineers.”They
all believed it could be done.“They
didn’t bring any prejudices or baggage .
. . .We never had a doubt for one second
that this thing was going to fly.”This
core team was located at
AgustaWestland’s headquarters site at
Cascina Costa near Milan. The company
was also able to put together a group of
external risk-sharing partners that
contributed people, hardware and
“This group lives to dream, and if it
can be dreamed, it can be built. The
team purposely chose not to just build
an electric-powered conventional
airplane or helicopter. They went all out
and built a twin-rotor electric tiltrotor
with no transmission or swashplates,”
Wang states.“Anything that is borderline
impossible, we want to do.”
This was a new way of doing
business – and a new attitude – for the
company,Wang says.With the AW169
showing that an aircraft could be
developed in less than four years,
AgustaWestland management
challenged the team to complete
Project Zero in a single year, including
all initial flight testing.
The project was also unique in its
collaboration: four Finmeccanica
companies – AgustaWestland, Selex ES,
Ansaldo Breda and Ansaldo Energia –
working together and with a team of
different industry sectors across three
continents.With engineers from Italy,
the U.K., the U.S. and Japan, the team
worked almost continuously 24 hours a
day for 7 days a week for six months.
Wang states,“Our partners all 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 the traditional aerospace industry, in
one advanced demonstrator program.”
The partners are:
• Stile Bertone (Italy): in conjunction
with AgustaWestland, developed
Project Zero’s styling and
aerodynamically unique
configuration. Stile Bertone is an
admired designer of supercars.
• Lola Composite (U.K.): produced the
entire aircraft exterior surface, made
of carbon graphite.
• Sistemi Dinamici (Italy): worked close-
ly with the Advanced Concepts
Group on flight control system and
rotor design. Sistemi Dinamici is a
high-technology engineering compa-
ny jointly owned by AgustaWestland
and IDS of Pisa, Italy.
• Selex ES (Italy): contributed the High-
Integrity Flight Control Computer
and Actuator Control Unit.
• Wind River (Italy subsidiary): provid-
ed software to drive the flight control
computer, and also provided
software consultation.
• Ansaldo Breda (Italy): drew on its
expertise in designing and building
high-speed electric trains to design
and produce the custom electric
motor inverter and motor control
VERTIFLITE May/June 2013
This excerpt from Patent EP2551190(A1) illustrates the major features of aircraft.
1,2,3 5,6,7