#WeAreLeonardo, the new frontiers of avionic systems with Mauro

From Politecnico di Torino's engineering classrooms to managing the team that, in the Aircraft business area, develops avionic systems. Mauro Rostagno narrates the path that, over the last twenty years, has seen him contribute to numerous research and technological innovation projects on all of Leonardo's aircraft programmes.

From performing laboratory avionics tests on the Eurofighter's on-board navigation systems shortly after graduating in Electronic Engineering from the Politecnico di Torino in 1997, to becoming Head of Avionic Systems of the Aircraft business area, an Engineering unit composed of 340 engineers and internal specialists (plus another substantial quota that manages external activities) is no mean feat. Mauro Rostagno, 53, who hails from Pinerolo (a small town in Piedmont), has forged ahead in twenty years in Leonardo. “I was able to do it because I worked in a very stimulating international context and progressively took on interdisciplinary and managerial responsibilities on all Leonardo aircraft programmes, in the military and civilian sectors, contributing to numerous research and technological innovation projects, the latest of which is the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) that Italy is developing together with United Kingdom and Japan,” he explains.

Only once did Mauro look around, but only to indulge a longstanding passion. “It was 2001 and I had been in the company for four years. I decided to participate in an ASI-ESA selection to become an astronaut. I passed two tests but not the last stages. I have no regrets,” he says. “The sliding doors moments of life have led me to great professional and personal satisfaction, achieved in an increasingly challenging business context in terms of proprietary programmes and participating in international collaborations, especially in terms of technology.” With a Master's degree in System Engineering from the University of Missouri (obtained while working) and participation in several project management and leadership courses organised by Leonardo (also jointly with the Università Bocconi), Mauro’s roles over the years have been progressively managerial.

The unit composed of engineers and technicians under his responsibility works on all the phases that precede (definition and development) and follow (testing, integration and qualification) the implementation of avionic systems and the related ground support systems in all Leonardo fixed-wing aircraft programmes. These aircraft can be military (Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, C-27J, GCAP), training (MB-339, M346 and M345) and special versions (ATR72/42 Maritime Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare), crewed and remotely piloted (Eurodrone, Adjunct), owned or developed as part of international partnerships. Avionic and mission systems are used to manage navigation, communications, multiple on-board sensors, displays, etc., and extend to ground systems for flight and mission planning and support, in military and civilian contexts. “The evolution of such complex systems is a challenge and the only way to rise to it today is through innovation and digitalisation applied to both the avionic systems and the development process,” he explains. “For example, we cannot afford to discover the existence of significant issues when the project is at an advanced stage of development. Instead, through a digital copy of the system (known as a digital twin), we can verify the project’s validity by identifying any problems in time and providing the necessary solutions.”

“Similarly, thanks to the potential of artificial intelligence, it is possible to address the issue of the autonomy of crewed and uncrewed aircraft, to manage the mission in a very complex scenario. In the latter case, in addition to the important tools we use, such as the HPC davinci-1 and Leonardo Labs, it has been essential to involve young people with STEM training. In our Avionic Innovation Lab, they have the opportunity to put into practice what they have studied about AI, properly guided and supported by senior specialists: this effective mix of senior engineering experience with the vitality and freshness of young people is extremely rewarding,” he adds.

When asked what the prospects are for a recent STEM graduate, Mauro has no doubts. “Compared to when I joined the company, prospects are certainly greater today, in terms of training and professional growth. To grow, however, it is important to be driven by great curiosity and passion.” And curiosity and passion are precisely what Mauro will try to transmit to the eleven-year-old classmates of the eldest of his two children, during a lesson that he has been invited to give by his child’s math teacher. “I'll talk about airplanes, and I'll tell the kids how great and engaging it is to work in a company like Leonardo.” Who knows, it may even be as exiting as being an astronaut.