The first successful test flight of a compact, advanced 4-axis helicopter autopilot system that will be used on Airbus AS350 and H125 helicopters was completed by Thales and StandardAero. (Thales)
The first successful test flight of a compact, advanced 4-axis helicopter autopilot system that will be used on Airbus AS350 and H125 helicopters was completed by Thales and StandardAero, according to a Nov. 30 press release. The compact autopilot is an intuitive automatic flight control system that will reduce pilot workload and improve safety.
The successful flight test of the Thales/StandardAero compact autopilot is a key milestone in the Supplemental Type Certification (STC) process. The autopilot is expected to be on the market by mid-2021.
“This state-of-the-art, 4-axis autopilot system has been designed as a straightforward retrofit and provides pilots with a simplified operation that will help reduce wear and tear on the helicopter while making flying in normal and adverse conditions much easier and safer for the crew and passengers,” Elvis Moniz, vice president of product development for StandardAero’s Helicopters business unit, said in a press statement. “Moreover, with the increase in EMS flying and recent CFIT related helicopter accidents, anything that can help pilots navigate more safely is of paramount interest.”
The 4-axis autopilot system reduces accidents by providing stability augmentation, attitude retention, and flight director modes, according to the release. The Advanced Control Management Systems improves flight handling qualities to ADS33 level 1 performance, Maria Mellouli, a media relations spokesperson for Thales, told Avionics International.
Melloui said the system has several automatic modes, approach to hover, all cruise modes, hover (VHLD), and position hold (PHLD) with radio-alt. The autopilot's control panel feature also functions as a data concentrator by dispatching intelligence out of the linear actuators towards the compact autopilot system (CAPS) components.
"This product combines Thales’ Autopilot experience, based on billions of flight hours accumulated and outstanding customer satisfaction, with StandardAero’s extensive aftermarket capabilities in aircraft modification and certification,” Jean-Paul Ebanga, vice president of flight avionics activities at Thales, said in a press statement. “We aim to bring a user-friendly solution offering an unparalleled level of safety and reliability to the light helicopter market."
The 4-axis autopilot system does not need a main flight control computer which allows the system weight to be greatly reduced, Mellouli said.
“In a nutshell, what makes our Compact AutoPilot System unique is its compact and light weight (no dedicated flight control computer needed), its high level of integrity and availability but beyond technical features it makes piloting simple and intuitive, reducing pilot workload,” Mellouli said.