Sandel WireWatch Entering Commercial Service

 - January 4, 2012, 4:50 AM
WireWatch on Sandel’s ST3400H HeliTaws.

Sandel Avionics has shipped the first production WireWatch helicopter wire alerting system software upgrade to Agusta A109 operator North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsville, Minn. MSP Aero of Minneapolis is installing the upgrade. The software upgrade adds Sandel’s wire-strike avoidance capability to the Sandel ST3400H HeliTaws system, a panel-mounted 3-ATI terrain awareness and warning instrument.

“Just as HeliTaws itself helps pilots avoid controlled flight into terrain, our WireWatch feature helps eliminate the hazard of near-invisible transmission lines by enabling helicopter crews to spot known wires,” said Sandel CEO Gerry Block, when the system was introduced at the last Heli-Expo show in March 2011.

The WireWatch database, which is updated continuously, includes transmission lines at or above 100 feet agl. Pilots can receive a visual display of the wires on the HeliTaws display and aural warnings, too. “The addition of the Sandel WireWatch technology gives us confidence that our client’s helicopters are also being protected from known wires,” said Jon Ness, MSP Aero’s director of business development, “and that their pilots will be flying with even greater situational awareness.”

The ST3400H with WireWatch is “the industry’s first multi-hazard avoidance system,” according to Sandel. The HeliTaws features Sandel’s “TrueAlert adaptive algorithms to understand pilot intent and provide terrain alerting while virtually eliminating nuisance alerting.” TrueAlerts allows pilots to take off, cruise, hover and land at off-airport locations without setting off annoying nuisance alerts, “while still receiving the established benefits of Class-A terrain and obstacle warnings during the entire flight,” According to the company.

Any Sandel HeliTaws unit can be upgraded with WireWatch. WireWatch was loaded into HeliTaws units shipped after October 4, 2011, and customers just need to specify the region where the helicopter will be operated and then purchase and install the regional WireWatch database. Database and software updates are accomplished via a mini-USB port on the front bezel of the ST3400H, and the data can be downloaded using a Windows PC. Pricing information for the regional WireWatch databases was not available at press time, and Sandel is working on cost and frequency of database updates, which could vary depending on what area of the world provides the data.

In other Sandel news, the company announced that it has completed the first phase of ground testing of the ST3400H for a U.S. Navy demonstration evaluation in a Sikorsky SH-60 testbed. Sandel is working with the Navy on the next step, installing a commercial off-the-shelf ST3400H in an SH-60 for flight testing. The ST3400H includes a high-resolution 3-D terrain display and is compatible with night-vision imaging systems.