While many medium to large turbine helicopters offer autopilots to enhance mission safety and comfort, Sikorsky is in the final stages of developing an automatic flight control system (AFCS) that the company says will be the first of its kind to fly automated approaches to a set position.
Guided by radar, a waypoint in a flight-management system, thermal imagery or a digital map, the AFCS is designed to enable search-and-rescue pilots to get into places that were once inaccessible in instrument conditions. It is currently being tested on the S-92.
“We’ve now demonstrated a three-dimensional precision approach system compatible with multiple aircraft sensors,” said S-92 project pilot Ron Doeppner. “The pilot can enter GPS coordinates through the S-92 flight management system or ‘hook’ a target with the cursor on the radar, FLIR or map display.”
European Aviation Safety Agency certification is expected by year-end, followed by FAA certification next year.
The civil S-92 system is a subset of the AFCS prototyped in the HH-92 Superhawk variant entered in the U.S. Air Force CSAR-X competition. Sikorsky Aircraft and Rockwell Collins developed the search-and-rescue flight control modes.