The amount of Rockwell Collins avionics products in helicopters continues to grow and the company is a significant supplier for AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters, Aviacopter, HAL, Russian Helicopters and Sikorsky. To leverage its rotorcraft capabilities, Rockwell Collins developed the HeliSure family of products, designed to help improve pilots’ situational awareness, especially in “congested and hazard-filled airspace,” according to the company.
“We started with synthetic vision and H-TAWS [helicopter terrain awareness and warning system], which will be in the AgustaWestland AW169 and AW189,” said Dan Toy, Rockwell Collins manager for rotary wing solutions. “We’re in discussions with other customers about fielding these products, but there’s no firm customer yet.” For the H-TAWS solution, Rockwell Collins chose the Sandel Avionics HeliTAWS product because it is a fully TSO’d Class A system.
The first iteration of the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics for rotorcraft is slated for AgustaWestland’s AW609 tiltrotor, and this flight deck forms the basis for next-generation helicopter cockpits, according to Toy. The Pro Line Fusion system, with its large landscape-oriented displays, isn’t touchscreen-enabled in the AW609, but this could be a feature selected by other helicopter OEMs that opt for a Fusion flight deck. The Fusion system also easily accommodates HeliSure features. “HeliSure is enabling technology that we would bring into Fusion,” he said.
In addition to HeliSure and Pro Line Fusion, here at Heli-Expo Rockwell Collins (Booth No. 8040) is also highlighting its RTA-4100 MultiScan weather radar and TCAS II traffic alert and collision avoidance system. For helicopters, the MultiScan radar works best with a 12- or 14-inch antenna, Toy said. No matter the size of the antenna, the radar provides up to 320-nm range, although the gain is lower with the smaller antennas. But the all-digital nature of the MultiScan radar not only allows it to automatically scan ahead of the helicopter but also combine returns “through advanced digital processing and analysis algorithms to display not just precipitation rates but the actual weather threats,” according to Rockwell Collins.
The Rockwell Collins TCAS II is the only such system currently certified on a helicopter, Toy said. The system helps pilot avoid midair collisions by interrogating transponders on other aircraft and if there is a potential conflict, displaying a vertical avoidance maneuver that the pilot can employ to maintain safe separation. TCAS II shows altitude, range and relative location of other targets on cockpit displays and also calculates speed, direction and conflict potential to determine whether to make a recommendation for an avoidance maneuver.
Typically, helicopters can’t achieve the rate of climb needed to comply with TCAS II resolution advisories. “While rate of climb has been a concern,” he said, “we’ve been able to successfully show our TCAS II will work satisfactorily within a helicopter’s flight envelope.” This TCAS II system is certified in the UK already for Sikorsky and AgustaWestland helicopters and will be approved soon for Sikorskys in the U.S. and also for Airbus Helicopters. Generally, the Rockwell Collins TCAS II, which is not modified from the fixed-wing version, is installed on larger helicopters such as Airbus Super Pumas, AgustaWestland’s AW101 (and soon on the AW169) and the Sikorsky S-92. “As you move down [in size],” he said, “the helicopters become more constrained in how much room they have for TCAS. Then TCAS I becomes more attractive.”
HeliSure, which centers around synthetic vision and H-TAWS, is being blended with other Rockwell Collins products such as the MultiScan radar and TCAS II to provide solutions for rotorcraft customers, Toy explained. “There are a lot of similarities in the technology needed by medium and heavy helicopters between what we do in the commercial and military markets. Our company is unique in being able to leverage both [markets] to provide solutions to our customers.”