Thales is adding four new functions to the TopDeck avionics suite it has developed for Sikorsky’s new S-76D. The initial version of the cockpit will complete certification in the next few months, ahead of the helicopter’s anticipated approval by the end of 2011, and additional options should be ready for service-entry next year.
The new functionality covers the following four elements:localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV) GPS approaches, XM Weather (on-screen, real-time satellite weather services), a flight following system (FFS) and ADS-B out (automatic dependent surveillance--broadcast, transmission from aircraft to ground stations). These are being added through enhancements to the iFMS 200 flight management system, the TopStar 200 GPS receiver and the automatic flight control system to ensure compatibility with new GPS SBAS (satellite-based augmentation system) precision approaches. The cost of these options is as yet unspecified.
Thales has responsibility for the full design authority and systems integration for the S-76D’s cockpit, including the avionics display architecture, autopilot and all associated software. The aircraft made its first flight two years ago and, according to Yves Jonanic, vice president of Thales’s helicopter activities, most elements of the cockpit now have their TSO approval and certification of the complete system is on track.
“We saw that it was necessary to address some specific functionality requested by [S-76D] customers,” explained Jonanic. “TopDeck architecture always intended to be open and so it is possible to add functionality by plugging it into the avionics suite and making changes to the software.”
LPV capability is useful when a helicopter needs to do steep approaches with a quick descent, enabling pilots to do this safely down to a decision height of just 50 feet. The flight crew can use an augmented GPS signal to generate the correct approach slope.
The FFS is mainly useful for fleet operators, such those flying to and from offshore platforms. It allows real-time data on numerous aircrafts’ positions to be reported via the Internet for use by both ground personnel and pilots.
ADS-B out capability will be mandatory under FAA’s NextGen air traffic management system from 2020. In the meantime, it has an additional benefit of being used to transmit data relating to the aircraft’s maintenance condition to an operator’s ground stations.
Thales is also laying plans to add further functionalities to the S-76D cockpit, including a terrain awareness warning system (TAWS) and a synthetic vision system (SVS). Jonanic said that the SVS is quite challenging because the integrity of the system is dependent on the ability to reliably refresh the database from which the synthetic view of outside conditions is generated. He said that Thales may be required to fit additional sensors to complement information from the database.
TopDeck is based on Thales’s Icube-S concept, which the company claims maximizes intuitive use, interactivity, integration and safety. Jonanic told AIN that the system has a higher degree of interaction with pilots through the use of devices such as a track ball similar to that used on a personal computer. He said that it is more intuitive in the sense that it is more straightforward for pilots to operate and so decreases their workload, allowing them to focus on flying and the mission at hand. For instance, TopDeck prompts pilots with possible options in any given situation.Various menus are presented on TopDeck’s six- by eight-inch displays, which Thales says makes it easier to find what pilots need. For instance, Jonanic said that the process for changing route during a flight has been greatly simplified. The integrated system includes its own sensors.
Here at Heli-Expo, Thales (Booth No. 4038) is displaying a complete example of the TopDeck cockpit for the S-76D. Also being exhibited is the integrated electronic standby instrument selected last year by Eurocopter for its current production helicopter family, as well as for the new EC175 model. The system will be standard equipment on new-build EC135, 145 and 155 helicopters and will also be available to existing operators for retrofit.