Italian aerospace group Leonardo is co-operating with Milan’s polytechnic university to simplify the mechanical system of helicopters, in an effort to reduce noise and vibrations on future rotorcraft.

The project, dubbed “Comfort”, is aimed at improving prospects of helicopter deployment and is part of a wider technology effort that also spans development of predictive maintenance and satellite-based geo-information systems.

Leonardo says it will develop, together with Politecnico di Milano, "innovative mechanical components based on new materials" to transfer loads from the rotor to the main gearbox.

The manufacturer envisions a "significant simplification of the existing mechanical system" by using "a single flexible component, rather than a complex mechanical system".

Research activities will concentrate on the rotor – the vibration source – main gearbox attachments and airframe structure, with an AW139 medium-twin-engined helicopter serving as a reference point for the studies.

Leonardo says it intends to achieve a "significant vibration and internal noise reduction, through the co-ordinated use of passive and active systems".

Additionally, the manufacturer predicts "advantages in terms of production costs and ease of installation", through the employment of "new mechanical components utilising new lighter materials".

Leonardo says: "By reducing noise and vibration inside the helicopter, pilot workload can be reduced, search and rescue tasks are easier, and the quality of medical treatment in air ambulances is improved."

By year-end, the partners intend to start a separate "innovative" research project on predictive maintenance specifically for helicopters.

Geo-information tools are to be developed by Politecnico’s Department of Electronics, Information & Bioengineering and earth observation specialist e-GEOS, which is jointly owned by the Italian Space Agency and Telespazio. The latter entity is a joint venture between Leonardo and French group Thales.

Leonardo notes the geo-information tools will be relevant for the agriculture, defence, emergency, energy, and insurance sectors.

The three technology projects are being conducted under a wider, multi-year co-operation framework, named Innovation Hub, which was agreed between Leonardo and the polytechnic in 2016.