Leonardo Expands Big Data Analysis From Helicopter Fleets

Leonardo Helicopters
Credit: Leonardo Helicopters

ATLANTA—Leonardo Helicopters is exploring the use of big data collected from operators of its helicopters to better understand its fleets and broaden the services available to its customers.

As part of the effort, the company has opened what it terms as a Diagnostic Service Tower at its facility in Sesto Calende, Italy. The tower is a workspace where the data can be analyzed and visualized by engineers. This will allow the company to build a picture of the fleet, understand how the rotorcraft are utilized and ultimately give back tangible benefits to customers providing their data to the OEM.

The efforts are part of the company’s wider digitalization efforts that will not only support its customers but will enable the OEM to engineer upgrades and new products more speedily.

Leonardo is working with a series of “early adopters,” who are downloading data from their aircraft and sending to the Diagnostic Services Tower. These early adopters include customers with just one aircraft to clients with entire fleets, with some 1,200 aircraft currently connected.

“Our customers are very supportive of this data-driven journey,” Alberto Clocchiatti, Leonardo’s head of helicopter digital services development, tells Aerospace DAILY, detailing the company’s efforts ahead of Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo being held in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 7-9.

Other OEMs routinely collect data from their customers but this is generally Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS), allowing the manufacturer to monitor the dynamic systems of fleets operating around the world.

Leonardo’s Diagnostic Services Tower draws in not just HUMS data, but also flight-data recordings, information from the avionics, as well as ground data including maintenance and logbook data.

This data is collected through a mobile app called Heli Connect and directly from the aircraft itself through communication links.

The data provides information on issues such as dynamic system threshold exceedances and can benchmark helicopter usage performance and failures as well as help engineers better understand the behavior of their components.

In return, Clocchiatti says, Leonardo is “delivering a range of services to allow the operator to use their aircraft even more efficiently.”

Other potential benefits from the data collection include being able to boost fleet availability by reducing aircraft on ground and decreasing the operational risks thanks to the predictive and prescriptive analytics.

The system will also help to optimize the management of spare parts by forecasting spares demand trends. It could also enhance training by boosting simulation accuracy. Furthermore, the technology will help to optimize flight operations, thanks to monitoring and benchmark analysis, officials say.

As the company looks to expand the role data plays, Leonardo Helicopters is also considering how to secure more data from light helicopters—platforms which often do not have systems such as HUMS due to the weight and cost of such systems.

Clocchiatti says it is part of the company’s roadmap to add data-transfer devices that can transmit the data automatically back to the manufacturer. This may not necessarily be HUMs but rather recorded flight data.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.