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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

HeliSure Line from Rockwell Collins Aims to Improve Situational Awareness

By Thierry Dubois, on Twitter: @aerodub

Rockwell Collins has introduced a new avionics product line, dubbed HeliSure, in a bid to improve situational awareness for helicopter pilots. While some of the products are already known, such as helicopter synthetic vision system (H-SVS) and helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (H-TAWS), others are in an early development phase. New sensors should thus enhance obstacle detection.

“We want to provide crews with a better vision of their environment, especially in poor weather,” marketing director Philippe Memery told Rotor & Wing. AgustaWestland has selected Rockwell Collins’ H-SVS and H-TAWS for the AW149, AW189, AW169 and AW101 (the former three aircraft are in development). These products feature 3D visualization. Resolution is three-arc second, meaning altitude is measured precisely every 300 feet on the surface.

 

Rockwell Collins’ HeliSure product line is targeted at a variety of operators, including EMS and law enforcement, for improved situational awareness. Image courtesy of Rockwell Collins

 

These systems are significant improvements to helicopter safety; however, they use imperfect obstacle databases, as Memery emphasized. “They don’t cover the entire planet and are not exhaustive – for example, they lack a lot of secondary power lines,” he explained. Sometimes, a hazard’s location may even be inaccurate. Hence the idea of further improving obstacle detection with on-board sensors.

The first sensor in development is a small radar for short distances. It is being designed to avoid rotor strikes at landing or takeoff. EMS operators will find it useful to avoid trees and small buildings in low visibility.

The second sensor, also a radar, is rather optimized for medium distances. It will be able to “see” secondary power lines, bridges etc.

Rockwell Collins claims to have chosen the right radar technology for civil helicopters. It will not be too bulky and will remain affordable, Memery pledged. It will be suitable for helicopters the size of a Eurocopter EC135 light twin and up. He would not disclose what the radar technology is, only excluding laser and saying it is an “all-weather” solution.

In a more distant future, moving to head-down to head-up or even helmet-mounted displays (HUD or HMD) is being considered. Rockwell Collins already has experience in HUDs for fixed-wing aircraft, Memery pointed out. Asked about the cost of an HMD (so far too expensive for commercial operators), he said finding a certifiable solution based on consumer products is an option. For instance, pilots of small remote-controlled aircraft have been using “first person view” systems. They wear vision goggles connected to an on-board camera – for a few hundred dollars.

Related: Avionics News

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