Future Vertical Lift


The pace of disruptive technologies within the vertical lift sector requires different thinking, with engineering and processes to be rapidly implemented embracing augmented reality, artificial intelligence digitalisation, alternative fuels and autonomy.

iAero is the new home to vertical lift innovation and collaboration – a purpose-built aerospace centre led by Somerset County Council, and in partnership with Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and Leonardo Helicopters, with UK Government and European Union funding. Built next to Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil, iAero offers 2,400m2 of office, light industrial and hangar space including ‘Aerospace Hub’ facilities.

Prime manufacturers need to change how they have traditionally worked with their supply chain, adopting more collaborative and innovative approaches to developing products. High-tech start-ups are increasingly pushing the boundaries in finding new ways of engineering solutions to opportunities and problems, while struggling to find ways to establish proof of concept and achieve routes to exploitation. iAero offers the opportunity to incubate, accelerate and exploit at the home of vertical lift in the UK.

Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System

Vertical lift is a key asset to future air power, providing agility and advantage to users. Doing this automatically and autonomously compounds those advantages by removing the need for people to work in dull, dirty and dangerous operations, while providing safety for future urban air transport.

Leonardo is leading research, development, experimentation and demonstration of emerging technologies applicable to future Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) in order to inspire, catalyse and accelerate innovation.

Through our partnership with the UK MOD, Leonardo is investigating uncrewed VTOL capability looking at:

  • Optimising aircraft design for concept of operations
  • Increasing safety levels through multi-propeller concepts
  • Inventing the next generation of flight control systems
  • Driving down cost of ownership through:
    • transformational improvements in availability and reliability
    • reduction in maintenance burden through fully on-condition maintenance
    • self-diagnosis and on-board decision making
  • Reducing operator workload management and cognitive learning through next generation human machine interface
  • Developing precision navigation in unsegregated and contested, denied airspace
  • Developing cutting-edge payloads
  • Cyber resilience systems
  • Green, sustainable aviation.

Air Launched Effects

Leonardo is innovating Air Launched Effects (ALE) – deploying UAS from aircraft bringing untold operator advantages / effects at distance. Alongside the UK MOD, through our Capability Concept Demonstration (CCD), the programme will:

  • Physically launch and control UAS from our rotorcraft
  • Examine the ‘effect’ to be achieved and derive the Concept of Operation
  • Swarming of the effectors
  • Develop the Human Machine Interface (HMI) that integrates the ALE as an ‘off board effector’ into the cockpit
  • Determine the cognitive burden associated with controlling and fighting both the Wildcat and the ALE.