Thales TopDeck Brand-new and Created for Upgrades

 - March 6, 2013, 8:00 PM
Greg Barnes, Sikorsky experimental test pilot, demonstrates the Thales TopDeck cockpit in the Sikorsky S-76D here at Heli-Expo.

While Sikorsky was busy unveiling its freshly certified S-76D to an eager Heli-Expo crowd, its partner in avionics Thales Group was nearby at Booth No. C6428 demonstrating the TopDeck integrated avionics system that it developed specifically for the new helicopter.

On first glance TopDeck is a pretty four-panel glass cockpit. But Yves Joannic, v-p for helicopter avionics activities at Thales Group, was quick to differentiate TopDeck from a typical EFIS system. “Many of the features you see here are absolute breakthroughs in helicopter avionics,” he explained. “TopDeck allows a pilot flying the S-76D to directly control cockpit tasks on his displays using an intuitive cursor control device [iCCD]. This iCCD–the first of its kind on a helicopter–puts all the functions at the pilot’s fingertips, thus reducing workload, shortening reaction time and increasing safety. All configurations of the cockpit are available through direct dialogue, using the iCCD, which is essentially a trackball.”

Joannic continued, “We designed the cockpit in such a way as to decrease the weight of the aircraft with decreased wiring. The screens you see are completely redundant in their architecture. It is a step toward the ultimate integrated avionics. For certification we proved that the system can have 100 percent functionality even though 50 percent of the equipment is down.”

The TopDeck system as it is today was certified with the aircraft in October 2012. A key component in the system is the interactive flight management system–iFMS 200–which carries “click to fly” to the next level, allowing pilots to manage or modify their flight plan and performance via the digital map display. Flight plan information displayed on interactive displays is permanently synchronized with what the conventional multifunction control display unit (MCDU) displays to the pilot. The iFMS 200 is also coupled to the automatic flight control system (AFCS), which enables vertical navigation such as climb, cruise and descent using IFR and SAR planning, but also GPS/Waas-based LPV approaches. The digital mapping allows S-76D pilots to plan and review their flight path using vector or raster charts, as well as approach charts, and terrain information that features realistic sun shading. The system displays 2D and 2.5D maps, as well as aeronautical information for airspace, airways, navaids, airports and weather datalink. By just moving the cursor over any of this information with the iCCD, pilots have access to more information.

The Future State of the Art

That’s TopDeck today, but it is where TopDeck is going that excites Thales Group avionics engineers. Add-ons coming this year are all software-driven and include XM weather, H-Taws and ADS-B OUT capabilities.

Beyond this year the system has been plumbed to be able to upgrade to ultra-high-resolution terrain and obstacle databases brought in from Thales’s fixed-wing avionics. Joannic said that in the future engineers plan to mix the H-Taws demonstrated on the fixed simulations at the company’s Heli-Expo booth with terrain detecting Lidar and FLIR.

The proof-of-concept demonstrator at the booth also sports a 15-inch touchscreen MFD with flip-through chart database, touch and navigate architecture, pinch and pull zoom, gesture- and click-driven pilot input and a worldwide graphical database.

When asked when pilots could expect this functionality on the TopDeck in the S-76D Joannic smiled and said, “This SVS and H-Taws, we are discussing with Sikorsky. It is, for the time being, a proposal, even though H-Taws and SVS are ready today. We are working for the consistency between the terrain database and the obstacle database; they have to agree.” o