Consumer electronics manufacturers, former toy and hobby suppliers, research university spinoffs and major aerospace companies are among the entities vying for a share of the simmering commercial market for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) generally weighing less than 20 pounds. They are advancing numerous fixed- and rotary-wing designs, some of which were displayed at the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference in May and others elsewhere. Following is a description of some, although by no means all, of the recent showings:
The first Bell 525 Relentless super-medium twin helicopter is moving closer to final assembly at Bell Helicopter’s plant in Amarillo, Texas. Matt Hasik, Bell’s senior vice president of commercial programs, told AIN that the three main cabin sections will be joined within the next few weeks. He also said that the first carbon-fiber, all-composite main rotor blade for the 525 has been completed and is undergoing testing.
Marenco Swisshelicopter is still preparing to fly its SH09 SKYe single-turbine helicopter. The company is finalizing testing of the major systems, a spokesman told AIN. “We have done a number of trials on the aircraft,” he said. In addition, the “whirl tower” test bench is running at full speed with the main rotor head and gearbox. Certification of the 5,840-pound-mtow rotorcraft is expected in the second half of next year.
Atlanta-based Precision Aviation Group (PAG) has named Adrienne Robinson vice president of business development. Before her new appointment, Robinson served PAG in dual roles: she joined the company in 2012 and three months later was asked to take on the additional role of president of Precision Aviation Services (PAS) in Peachtree City, Ga. During her leadership of PAS, Robinson negotiated an agreement with Airbus Helicopters designating PAS as an AHI Service Center, the first in the Atlanta market.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has found that the fatally injured pilot and sole occupant of a Gemini Helicopters Robinson R44 that crashed on Jan. 27, 2013, near Fox Creek, Alberta, after an in-flight break-up “was under the influence of alcohol” and made “inappropriate control inputs that caused the main rotor blade to make contact with the fuselage.” The TSB also noted the failure of the R44’s emergency locator transmitter in the final report.
The helicopter industry in Asia has taken a first step toward tackling unfavorable safety statistics in the region with the creation of the Asean helicopter safety team (AHEST). The new group, representing the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China, held its inaugural steering committee meeting last month. Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia hosted the gathering in Singapore, attended by 15 participants representing manufacturers, operators, regulators and customers.
The companies have walked away from an agreement announced last year to partner on a new 5,000-pound helicopter. They continue to operate the HeliVert joint venture that produces AW139s for the Russian and CIS markets.
For a minute, I think I am in the wrong place.
The Enstrom Helicopter headquarters I visited in Menominee, Mich., more than a decade ago was a ramshackle collection of small, rundown hangars and older low-ceiling buildings. The dated offices had furnishings stuck in the 1960s. There were plenty of empty parking spaces, few employees and the company was perennially beset by rumors of its impending demise.
Northeast State Community College (NeSCC) and Bell Helicopter Piney Flats have announced an educational collaboration to develop the next generation of aircraft technicians and aviation professionals. The collaboration is the foundation of a long-term strategy to promote advanced technical training throughout the region.
Sikorsky and Lord have completed the flight demonstration of a hub-mounted vibration suppressor (HMVS) intended to address crew fatigue and reduced equipment reliability caused by helicopter vibration. Eventually, the HMVS could be part of a larger system integrated into all Sikorsky helicopters.