The aircraft was developed as a skunkworks project with no more than two dozen full-time engineers from AgustaWestland and its 15 partner companies including Selex ES. Working with other companies in Italy, the UK, the U.S. and Japan, the team worked nearly 24 hours a day / seven days a week for six months to go from concept to first flight. The companies involved included Stile Bertone for aerodynamic styling, Lola Composites for the CFRP exterior.
The Project Zero team was awarded AHS International's prestigious 2014 Grover E. Bell Award—named for Larry Bell's late brother—given to the individual or organization that has fostered and encouraged research and experimentation in helicopter development.
A European Patent, EP2551190(A1), was filed on 29 July 2011 and granted 30 January 2013. Patents (with James Wang as the inventor) were also granted in parallel in the United States, US2013026303 (A1); Korea, KR20130014450 (A); Japan, JP2013032147 (A), and China, CN102897317 (A).
The unmanned demonstrator made its first tethered flight in June 2011 at AgustaWestland’s Cascina Costa facility in Italy. It was flown in secured areas several times in 2011 and 2012, including flights with and without the ducted shrouds around its tilting rotors and with a second set of more advanced rotor blades with a non-linear twist and custom airfoils. According to the company, the aircraft "employs no hydraulics, doesn’t burn fossil fuel and generates zero emissions." The aircraft is all-electric with power coming from rechargeable batteries.