Rockwell Collins Introduces HeliSure Technology To Rotorcraft Market

 - August 3, 2013, 5:05 AM
The new line of HeliSure helicopter synthetic vision and Taws products will appear first in AgustaWestland models.

The new HeliSure systems introduced by Rockwell Collins aren’t just synthetic vision system (SVS) and terrain awareness and warning system (Taws) for helicopters but “a family of technologies that are going to provide solutions for helicopter cockpits,” according to Dan Toy, principal marketing manager for the company’s rotary wing business. The first products are HSVS and H-Taws and will be fitted to new AgustaWestland AW149s, AW189s, AW101s and AW169s.

“What we’re really trying to do with HeliSure,” Toy said, “is provide a level of situational awareness in cockpits that you can’t get anywhere else today.” This means not just database-type solutions such as HSVS and H-Taws but also future capabilities in which active sensors installed on the helicopter help pilots detect hazards. These hazards will be shown on Rockwell Collins displays but with intuitive symbology that helps fuse the entire picture together for the pilot, he explained. “We’re focusing on crew workload reduction. More information is not always good. We have to…bring it together so the pilot is able to understand what it is.” The idea, he added, “is to display actionable information in the cockpit and avoid information overload.”

The HSVS isn’t just ported from the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion SVS used for business aircraft; rather it is modified specifically for helicopters. The terrain resolution is higher, Toy said, “because helicopters fly at lower altitudes. We also added symbology to include more obstacles. When you’re flying a business jet at 35,000 feet, you don’t care about a 100-foot building. Flying at 1,000 feet, those 100-foot buildings look a lot larger.

“In the AW platforms, we share cockpit development with AgustaWestland,” Toy said. Displays and the software that runs them and the control-display unit are Rockwell Collins products. The helicopters’ mission computer hosts FMS software and includes storage for the HeliSure databases. “We’ve married it all together so it plays seamlessly,” he said.

Other HeliSure features that will likely come next include traffic avoidance, active wire and obstacle detection and hazard detection when the helicopter is in close proximity to other aircraft. For H-Taws, Rockwell Collins has licensed software algorithms from Sandel Avionics, including its TrueAlert nuisance-alerts elimination, but not Sandel’s WireWatch wire-strike protection database. Rockwell Collins uses its own 3-arc second terrain database for HSVS. Toy said that Rockwell Collins could incorporate Sandel’s WireWatch database in the future, but customers haven’t yet asked for that feature.

“One of the reasons that we selected Sandel,” he said, “included considerations such as how well the software worked and the nuisance-alerts [elimination technology]. We included much of the functionality that it advertises in its other systems and implemented functions we think are appropriate for the market. We will be able to expand on that as customers request [added features] in the future.”

Rockwell Collins is targeting OEMs besides AgustaWestland and other helicopter models made by the Italian manufacturer such as the A109 and AW139. The AgustaWestland program made sense because those helicopters will be equipped with Rockwell Collins displays, and the HeliSure capabilities are software add-ons to drive the HSVS and H-Taws features. Adding HeliSure to other helicopter types depends on whether they already have Rockwell Collins displays that can run this software, or in the case of a retrofit, displays would have to be replaced.

While touchscreens are available on Pro Line Fusion products for some business aircraft, “so far we have not implemented that in a helicopter cockpit,” Toy said. “Many of our helicopter customers–the OEMs–are still looking at that technology and determining how it best fits into what they would like in their cockpits.” One possibility would be to mount a Rockwell Collins TSD-268 touchscreen in a console where pilots could easily reach it and use that to display mapping and other cockpit control features.

HeliSure can be added to almost any size helicopter, and Rockwell Collins wants to serve the market for light through heavy machines, but it doesn’t plan to offer these products for very light training helicopters.