Leonardo & Milan Polytechnic’s Future Helicopter Tech

New Materials, Reduced Vibration and Predictive Maintenance Feature in Research


In 2016, Leonardo and the Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi) signed a multi-year framework agreement, the Innovation Hub, focused on development of innovative technologies and new materials aimed at reducing helicopter noise and vibration, thus offering advantages in production costs, installation, operation and maintenance. Now the agreement will be further extended, with research starting during 2018 into the possibilities of predictive maintenance for a helicopter based on its health status.

Current research is focused on the development of innovative mechanical components based on new materials, allowing the transfer of loads from the rotor to the main gearbox of the helicopter. This will provide a significant simplification of the existing mechanical system, thanks to the use of a single flexible component rather than a complex mechanical system.

In Project Comfort the partners are also developing technologies to reduce the vibration and noise of helicopters. The reference platform for the study is the AW139 helicopter. The research activities are concentrated on three main areas: the rotor, from which the vibrations originate; the main gearbox attachments, through which rotor vibrations are transmitted into the helicopter structure; and finally on the airframe itself. The ultimate goal of the programme is to demonstrate a significant vibration and internal noise reduction, through the coordinated use of passive and active systems. The development of solutions suitable for achieving the objective includes simulation activities and experimental research validation.

Under the agreement, an innovative project looking at predictive maintenance for helicopters, based on health status provided by Health & Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS), a continually advancing technology, will start by the end of this year. This will help provide advance indications of anomalies helping to increase safety levels and reduce operating costs.

The Politecnico di Milano is collaborating in a structured way with major industrial companies to make its research environment more and more relevant to the needs of businesses [….] The Innovation Hub created with Leonardo is producing concrete results and significant ones that confirm our commitment and identify [us], once again, as an engine of innovation in the nation,” commented the University’s Rector, Ferruccio Resta.

In Leonardo, we invest in continuous and increasingly collaborative innovation to develop increasingly effective and sustainable solutions for our customers and for Italy. The multi-year collaboration with the Politecnico of Milan is a concrete example of this. By putting our wealth of skills in line with those of the academic world we can accelerate the processes of innovation and technological development, create synergy and mutual benefit to support the competitiveness of Italy,” added Leonardo’s CEO, Alessandro Profumo.


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