Leonardo and ALTEN: One display, one team
ALTEN is working in close collaboration with Leonardo Helicopters to build innovative cockpit display systems for helicopters. To the helicopter pilot, the cockpit display is fundamental. It must provide all the information required to fly the helicopter safely while responding to diverse conditions and requirements.
“Helicopters are very complex machines. A lot of information needs to be delivered to the pilot, at the right time and in the right way.”Renato Sala, Technical Director of the ALTEN Engineering Division for Italy
ALTEN’s collab oration with Leonardo involves a new concept, referred to as “the glass cockpit”, where all the instruments are virtualized in a single glass display. “In the past,” explains Renato, “these were numerous distinct, physical instruments that each had to be manipulated in a certain way.” The glass cockpit offers the pilot a view of everything needed, all at once. “The challenge,” continues Renato, “is to display the information in such a way that it is captured at a glance, and at the same time the pilot can easily zero in on what needs to be done.”
The ALTEN team comprises 15 people, broken down into smaller teams to work on specific aspects of the project, together with Leonardo’s engineers. For example, one team collaborates with in assessing what is need and defining the requirements. Another develops the software using a model-based design paradigm, an approach that allows the software engineers to avoid problems of language etc. They create simulations of real-life situations, inputting data and observing what happens, and then develop solutions based on the results. Another team works on creating prototypes; these are tested with the helicopter pilots and their feedback is used to adapt the prototype, making sure it will work for the final user. Finally, there is a team involved in the integration and validation of the software and hardware, feeding data from the helicopters’ sensors to verify that the information is correctly represented; this is the last phase before the certification of the helicopter with the authorities.
In all this, the relationship between ALTEN and the customer is very close. The teams work as one, in direct collaboration, through all the project phases. ALTEN’s engineers participate in all meetings, from conception through to certification.
“These are great opportunities,” concludes Renato. We get to work on things that are complex and very interesting, ideas for the future, and to see the concrete results of our work.”