Connected cockpits integrating data to enhance missions, safety, and ops
By Rick Adams
Copyright : SMI
Enroute to the hospital, information on a patient is transmitted by emergency medical services technicians aboard an EMS helicopter as they conduct a live video conference with doctors.
A SEARCH-AND-RESCUE (SAR) TEAM RECEIVES REAL-TIME INFORMATION VIA AN IRIDIUM SATELLITE VIDEO LINK TO QUICKLY LOCATE HIKERS STRANDED ON A MOUNTAIN. VIP PASSENGERS ON A CORPORATE TRANSPORT PLUG INTO ONBOARD 4G WIFI FOR THEIR OFFICE IN THE SKY. ADVISORY GUIDANCE FOR FLYING A CURVED ADS-B APPROACH PATH IN REDUCED VISIBILITY CONDITIONS IS DISPLAYED FOR PILOTS ON THEIR IPAD. GROUND CREWS ACCESS AUTOMATICALLY UPLOADED ENGINE AND AVIONICS DATA, PROVIDING IMPROVED HEALTH AND USAGE MONITORING SYSTEM (HUMS) VISIBILITY INTO THE HELICOPTER’S SYSTEMS, REDUCING THE RISK OF UNEXPECTED INCIDENTS AND COSTS.
These are examples of emerging “connected” helicopter technology which is focused on consolidating and simplifying the ever-increasing wealth of information available to pilots, maintenance crews and operators. “When faced with high-risk and dangerous missions, helicopter pilots are often expected to troubleshoot with little to no data and information,” said Tom Neumann, who is responsible for Honeywell’s Commercial Helicopter and US Defense businesses. “Helicopter pilots should no longer have to rely solely on their knowledge and experience to ensure safe flight. A new connected experience for helicopter pilots and operators will help increase safety as well as keep operators aware of potential maintenance issues and faults before they even happen. The connected helicopter gives pilots more information about the flight environment than ever before, allowing them to stay consistently connected around the world.” Honeywell recently partnered with cloud-based flight data monitoring company Truth Data to combine the helicopter communications and tracking capabilities of its Sky Connect Tracker III with Truth Data’s Flight Operations and Quality Assurance (FOQA) services.
A MIRROR OF THE BRAIN
Thales Vice President for Helicopter Avionics, Christian Bardot, added, “The helicopter market may be seeing the beginning of the end of traditional cockpit architecture. Pilots and operators require more mission-orientated systems and ask relevant information to be displayed when needed and in a mission-friendly way.” Thales call their Avionics 2020 “the world’s first fully connected cockpit for helicopters.” Thales claim the Avionics 2020 system “mirrors the human brain’s decision-making process” and feature 2-4 touchscreens plus a helmet-mounted display. The system merges data from different sources, including secure avionics and external or ‘open’ channels. The design is the outgrowth ofpartnerships with scientific institutions and experts to intimately understand human-machine interface, ergonomics and “neural decision making.” Flight-testing on a customer platform will begin in 2018, and Thales is targeting certification two years after. Airbus has been working with Bristow Group and other customers on using flight data to identify earlier indicators of system and component issues that might lead to safety, operations, and maintenance problems. Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury explained the result may not be “exactly HUMS as we see them today, but better use of data” and new digital products and services using “big data” and automated analysis to capture extensive feedback on how helicopters are behaving in flight. Airbus’ is developing an upgrade to its Helionix integrated avionics system to add helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS) functionality and synthetic vision system (SVS) capability, as well as SAR and automated offshore rig approach functions. Helionix features a four-axis autopilot and 1-4 display screens. The system is designed to automatically reconfigure itself if a component malfunctions and quickly restore equivalent functions without requiring pilot intervention.
RETROFITS AND ROLL-ONS
Rockwell Collins is offering the Helisure cockpit display system for aftermarket retrofit for medium and heavy rotorcraft. Guillaume Zini, Senior System Engineer, said the system has been designed to interface with existing autopilots and flight management systems. It features synthetic vision and HTAWS, and can accommodate a moving map, video feed, maintenance information, system synoptics or crew alerting system and engine parameters. The Helisure suite is also compatible with night-vision goggles. Astronautics Corp of America and JAGID (Jake’s Aerospace Government International Defense) are teamed on SmartCopter, a new roll-on/roll-off suite for law enforcement operators. Instead of equipping every aircraft in an operator’s fleet, SmartCopter is a portable cockpit situational awareness and communications system. “Operators want these capabilities, but they just don’t have the budget to be able to implement them in an integrated fashion on every single aircraft,” said Brian Keery, Astronautics Product Strategy Manager. SmartCopter can be integrated, in effect, “on every single helicopter – just by taking the system off of one and putting it onto another.”
COCKPIT OF THE FUTURE
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is studying the use of enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS), especially with a view to approaches for onshore heliports and offshore helipads. The study is using Elbit Systems’ Heli-Clear- Vision installed on a Sikorsky S-76. ClearVision incorporates head-worn displays, enhanced vision system (EVS) and synthetic vision system (SVS), blended into a combined vision system (CVS). The study will analyze flights in extreme weather and low-visibility conditions during day, night and twilight, including Lnav (lateral navigation) and LPV (localizer performance with vertical guidance) approaches. Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit’s Aerospace Division, said, “This technology will enable many lifesaving missions and will significantly increase the safety of the flying crew.” Elbit has signed a long-term agreement to equip Leonardo Helicopters’ commercial helicopters with Heli-ClearVision. The system combines the realworld picture with a synthetic map based on a digital terrain model database to improve the pilot’s situational awareness in limited-visibility conditions. Such orientation is further enhanced by the system’s ability to detect lights from oil rigs, helipads and runways. Shmuely said, “EFVS will enable helicopter pilots to fly ‘eyes out’ and operate safely under degraded visibility and weather conditions that prevented such operation in the past.” HeliOffshore, a safety-focused group launched two years ago that now numbers 100 members on six continents, is using special head-scan and eyetracking glasses in a full-flight simulator to study which visual cues a pilot uses to handle various flying tasks. “We are using techniques to understand more about how pilots monitor cockpit instruments during flight,” said Gretchen Haskins, HeliOffshore CEO. The results will be used to improve training and standard operating procedures, and give feedback to helicopter manufacturers about the design of future automation and cockpits. Human factors specialists Jarvis Bagshaw have been retained for the research. “What you look at is driven by what you’re trying to achieve,” explained lead researcher Dr. Steve Jarvis. In Phase 1, test pilots were presented with benign instrument flight conditions in a flight simulator as a baseline for “normal scans.” In Phase 2, to be completed by the end of 2017, crews are presented with abnormal and emergency scenarios to provide a comparison for what information pilots focus on when things don’t go as planned. It’s quite possible that future helicopter cockpits won’t include any physical instruments at all. At the Heli Expo conference in Dallas, Texas in March, Bell Helicopter presented a concept aircraft, the FCX-001, with flight controls presented via an augmented reality helmet. Flight computers could handle many routine and even more perilous manoeuvres involved in safe flight, suggested Scott Drennan, Bell Director of Innovation.