Paris Air Show

French startup company to offer flight testing of Galileo receiver

 - June 9, 2009, 9:40 AM

Helileo (Hall 4 Stand E66), a Galileo test bed and expert company located in Aerospace Valley of southwest France, is offering flight testing services to manufacturers of GPS, EGNOS and Galileo receivers. Under an original program, the French start-up company plans to have one engineer testing hardware during French Army pilot training flights operated by Helidax, a private venture, with Eurocopter EC 120 helicopters. The first revenue flight is pegged for September.

According to Bernard Panefieu, founder and president of the Dax-based business, Helileo’s order book is already valued at just over $800,000. “We are going to start with a European Commission program that is to assess EGNOS performance over 1,000-plus flight hours,” he said.

The next effort will be an Aerospace Valley program, Interloc, aimed at finding ways to detect electric interferences around airports that can disrupt satellite navigation. Interloc hopes to locate the sources of interference up to about 60 miles around an airport. Finally, Helileo has a contract with Thales for the use of a Galileo signal simulator made by Spirent Communications.

The first flights aboard Helidax’s aircraft, in February and March, were designed to allow  Helidax and Helileo to sort out installation of test racks. That hardware must be compatible with any helicopter of the fleet, and it is carried in the EC 120’s baggage hold.

In September, Helileo will have six racks available for the test equipment. Another installation factor was to check that rotor blades did not create interference with the satellite antenna.

While acknowledging that the flight profiles are not under Helileo’s control, Panefieu said this will be offset by the wide variety of flights Helidax will operate. The program will evaluate receivers and more comprehensive systems, such as navigation systems that integrate inertial reference or radio navigation. “We can assess their performance at very competitive costs,” he told AIN. The cost of one test hour may be seen as marginal, as the flight is primarily a pilot training flight.

Panefieu described his company, which was formed in May 2008, as a center of expertise and he made it clear that he is promoting Galileo. Prospective Helileo customers are mainly in the business of manufacturing receivers for maritime, ground and aerospace applications, he explained. “We also want to offer helicopter-dedicated software programs–for hoist operations, for example–that could add value to existing hardware,” he said.

“The Helidax people are very cooperative,” he commented, noting that the agreement between Helileo and Helidax covers flight-hour remuneration and technical work comprising the installation and flight test equipment certification.
Panefieu, a former Thales navigation specialist, employs a staff of 12 and is planning to add three more by year-end, two engineers and a sales person.

Helidax is a joint venture between defense consulting firm DCI and Proteus Hélicoptères, an Inaer group operator. In 2008, it signed a contract with the French government to supply up to 22,000 flight hours of training annually over a 20-year period. The company has ordered 36 EC 120 light singles.