AgustaWestland’s electric-tilt rotor aircraft, the world’s first, can take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane – much like the more famous Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. It’s called Project Zero, and it follows AgustaWestland’s belief that tilt rotor technology is the best layout for the future of fast vertical-lift aircraft.
AgustaWestland has had experience with the tilt rotor aircraft, having taken over the AW609 – which was formerly known as the Bell Agusta 609 civilian tilt rotor aircraft. The AW609 resembles the V-22 Osprey but is smaller and has a pressurized cabin.
Unlike the Osprey or AW609, which mount their engines and propellers at the end of each small wing, Project Zero has two integrated rotors within the wingspan of the aircraft. The rotors are entirely electric powered and can be rotated more than 90 degrees.
Being an electric vehicle, noise and heat levels are low, and it able to fly in conditions that that regular aircraft struggle with. AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti said tilt-rotors are the way of the future for some helicopter applications. He also envisions a hybrid version.
The demo aircraft’s rotors are driven by electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries AgustaWestland has experimented with future hybrid solutions using a diesel engine to drive a generator. The aircraft control systems, flight control and landing gear actuators are all electrically powered.
The aircraft’s electrical storage device, the company added, can be recharged on the ground while the rotors are running by tilting the rotors forward and into the wind and allowing them to function like windmills.