Embracing a fully digital customer experience

Leonardo Helicopters is committed to a fully digital future. Find out how we’re transforming our own business and working in partnership with customers to introduce innovative digital services and unlock the potential of data analytics.

We live a digital world, where every part daily life is awash with data. At Leonardo Helicopters we see the potential of digital and smart use of data to make life simpler and better for our customers, which is why we’re accelerating our journey towards being a fully digital data-driven company.

In 2019 we launched a digital transformation programme that is making every aspect of our organisation ‘digital first’ – how we design and build products, how we ensure airworthiness and safety in flight operations, as well as harnessing advanced digital solutions and services to enhance maintenance and training activities.

We’re also collaborating with customers to understand their views, particularly on the value of sharing data from their operations. In 2020, we began working closely with a group of ‘early adopter’ customers whose feedback has helped us to develop a roadmap of digital services that will make a tangible difference to customers’ operations.

Alberto Clocchiatti leads our Digital Services Development team. He says: “We want to improve our customers’ digital experience and the key to doing that is data. Technology is advancing rapidly in areas such as high-performance computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence – all of which are driven by data analytics.

“Essentially, we are speaking about two types of data that customers can share with us – the first is “flight and diagnostic” data from onboard the helicopter. The second area is “ground” data such as configuration, asset management and support activities.

“Through data analytics we can help customers in many different ways: to better manage logistics and spare parts requirements, reduce downtime and maintenance, anticipate failures and reduce AOG situations, for example.”

To support a ‘digital first’ approach we have invested in two key channels to give customers instant access to the services they need through a single ‘sign on’. The Customer Portal is the focal point for online services, available to customers 24/7 wherever they are in the world. In 2022 we launched our new HELIconnect app that enables pilots, technicians, fleet managers and all the users from the customer side to co-ordinate daily activities on the ground or in the air through a user-friendly digital platform.

“We would encourage as many customers as possible to use the Customer Portal and HELIconnect, for example to share components and maintenance data so that we can better forecast maintenance events and also tailor what we do in future,” says Clocchiatti.

Digital solutions and services

Our work on digital transformation is delivering practical solutions that benefit customers. For example, we have recently certified an automatic data transmission system for the AW189. It enables the aircraft to transmit performance data to a ground station using satellite communication in flight, 4G cell connectivity or via Wi-Fi when on the ground.

It offers a secure way to share an accurate picture of each flight so that data can be assessed by Leonardo Helicopters experts quickly and any issues detected in a timely way. The plan is to make the same system available across the AWFamily of helicopters, comprising the AW169, AW139 and AW189. At the moment customers can already download and share diagnostic data with Leonardo through a simple app called Heliwise4Mobile, that can connect to the helicopter DTD and easily transfer data.

Another example is an initiative to replace the traditional paper helicopter logbook with a digital version available through our Customer Portal. Produced during the assembly phase, the paper logbook typically runs to more than 300 pages and is hand-delivered to the customer. We have piloted the digital approach on the AW169 and AW139 and in future new helicopters entering service will use a digital logbook that is user-friendly and can be easily uploaded into the customer’s own maintenance system.

Meanwhile, in flight operations pilots can benefit from an Electronic Flight Bag that enables mission planning, assessment of the flight and access to all operational manuals all through a mobile device.

Maintenance is another area where we’re investing in digital solutions. The HeliLink application enables remote access and real-time support to troubleshoot technical problems and assess damage, while HUMS and HeliWise allow monitoring of aircraft status.

A continuous cycle of improvement

Data has been described as the ‘oil of the future’ – just as oil was once an untapped asset, industry is only now tapping into the true potential of data. But like oil, data needs to be refined to have true value. So, where are some of the future opportunities?

Clocchiatti says: “Our digital transformation roadmap covers every part of our operations. It includes innovations such as the use of augmented and mixed reality for maintenance, a shift towards data-driven training, and greater emphasis on digital design, simulation and testing including the use of Digital Twins allowing us to replicate an entire product or process in the virtual world. Moreover, we’re exploiting how AI and Machine Learning algorithms applied to the huge amount of data coming from helicopters in service can provide advanced monitoring and prognostic features to support predictive maintenance. We will continue to work in partnership with our customers to make sure that they benefit from the improvements we’re making.”

Look out for more stories and insights throughout the year on how we’re improving the digital experience for customers.

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