Singapore Air Show

Sagem automating small helicopters

 - December 4, 2006, 2:32 PM

Sagem Defense Securite is offering helicopter cockpit enhancements based upon LCD displays and two-axis autopilots. The company, part of the French Safran group (Stand A717), has already obtained supplemental type certificates for several rotorcraft. The price of the new product, dubbed the integrated cockpit display system (ICDS), ranges from $40,000 to $90,000–not including the installation kit.

“We are answering a need, notably expressed by the EMS [emergency medical services] industry,” Serge Aurignac, Sagem’s head of automatic flight control systems, told Aviation International News.

The firm insists this type of equipment, which has been the preserve of more expensive models, is now available for entry-level aircraft. According to Sagem, the lower-cost solution will expand the market for this equipment, which has previously  been installed on just a few dozen helicopters a year. Now the sales team is targeting private operators, corporate fleets, flight schools and state agencies, such as police and border patrols.

The ICDS is marketed as a retrofit but can be mounted on factory-new helicopters. It is available in several versions, called ICDS-6, -8 or -10, depending on the size of the screens.

The system is made of three main pieces of equipment. First, a primary flight display (PFD), which includes an airspeed indicator and an attitude and heading reference system (AHRS), among other features. Second, a multifunction display (MFD) that can show a digital map, airborne collision avoidance system information, video or images from the weather radar.

The third part of the ICDS is the engine monitoring system. The autopilot can come on top of those three main components. It allows the helicopter to maintain a constant attitude, automatically. Asked about space constraints in light helicopter cockpits, Aurignac answered that information is arranged and shown in a dense manner.

The ICDS entered into service on the Erickson S-64E Aircrane Helitanker in late 2004, right after the STC was obtained. Four of these water bombers are now flying.

Each STC corresponds to a particular configuration. “The Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B2 is available with a PFD and an engine monitoring system, whereas our ICDS for the Bell 206 includes a PFD and an autopilot,” Aurignac explained. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration granted the STC for the Bell 206 last July.

The Eurocopter EC 120B, a major market for the ICDS, can be fitted with either a PFD and an autopilot, or a PFD and a MFD. Two EC 120Bs started flying with the ICDS in the second half of 2005.

Sagem engineers are now working on additional STCs. “The Bell 407 will be available with a PFD and an autopilot, which will enable night VFR flights for EMS operators. The development is well under way,” Aurignac told AIN. Other future applications include the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B3 and the EC 130, both with a PFD and possibly a MFD.