HAI Convention News

Heli-Expo 2011: Cool City Avionics Plans To Build Autopilots for Light Helicopters

 - March 7, 2011, 1:25 PM

Cool City Avionics wants to create a light helicopter autopilot market.

Named after the Texas city near Mineral Wells where it is located, Cool City Avionics (Booth No. 4753) is taking a modular approach to certifying light helicopter stability augmentation and autopilot systems. The goal is to maintain component commonality and use proven automatic flight control design concepts while employing current technology.

Jim Irwin, Cool City president and CEO, said the company’s business plan calls for certifying a line of automatic flight control products that will be small, lightweight, inexpensive and easy to install. Prices and ease of certification should enable the systems to find a home in light helicopters, where cost and complexity presently exclude their use.

Cool City’s product line will start at the low end with simple stability augmentation, moving up through more complex stability augmentation systems into two- and three-axis autopilots. The Cool City design model minimizes complexity by foregoing full-blown digital air data/attitude/heading systems in favor of simple accelerometer-based sensors, conservative and uncomplicated control laws with a fail-passive autopilot servo system.

 Irwin, a veteran of many years in helicopter and fixed-wing autopilot design and development, said the company plans first to certify a full three-axis autopilot with stability augmentation, using a Cool City-owned Robinson R44 as the certification vehicle. “Then it will be much easier to certify the simpler systems using the same components,” he explained.

The projected Cool City Avionics price point falls within the $30,000 to $50,000 range compared to $100,000 and up for current rotorcraft-certified automatic flight control systems, according to Irwin.