Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is introducing new helicopter safety technology that allows flight in degraded visual environments. The program is an example of how the group is diversifying its activities to achieve a more balanced portfolio between civil and defense markets. Another example is its new TaxiBot system for more fuel-efficient airliner taxiing, which has just completed certification testing at Germany’s Frankfurt International Airport.
The helicopter safety system, which is being unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow this week, features staring radar, advanced processing algorithms and cockpit multi-functional display integration. The technology allows for low-altitude flight under all weather conditions or lighting and visibility, as well as for safe landing in brown-out conditions by alerting the pilot of electrical power lines and other ground obstacles.
The system generates a synthetic image of terrain, highlighting flight obstacles such as power lines and their supporting towers or poles. Offering a 95-percent detection probability for power lines, it comprises two 30- by 40-centimeter (11.8 inch by 15.7 inch) antennas, requires just 250 watts of power and weighs 30 kilograms (66 pounds). The system has successfully undergone flight tests and can perform real-time demonstration flights.
TaxiBot is a semi-robotic, pilot-controlled vehicle designed to move airplanes between airport gates and runways called TaxiBot. The company conducted tests on a Lufthansa Boeing 737 with the support of Boeing and the European Aviation Safety Agency. IAI plans to conduct and in-service evaluation on commercial flights departing Frankfurt following certification approval.
Meanwhile, IAI has completed assembly of a TaxiBot model designed for widebody airplanes and started dynamic driving tests at the factory of ground support equipment group TLD near Tours in France. The system allows aircraft to taxi without running their main engines, resulting in significant fuel savings and reduced pollution.
The TaxiBot program represents a new opportunity for IAI in an air transport market that has otherwise been somewhat disappointing for the group due to softening demand for the passenger-to-freighter conversions offered by its Bedek Aviation division. IAI president and CEO Joseph Weiss told AIN that the group benefits from having a good balance between civil and defense markets to compensate for fluctuating levels of demand. “There are fields [in civil aerospace] that are in better shape, such as subassemblies and assemblies for commercial aircraft, which pushes us towards activities involving advanced technologies and automation,” he said.
Efforts to achieve a balanced business portfolio have seen IAI pursuing further diversification to be active beyond aviation. “The company maintains a diversified defense-related portfolio covering aviation, space, maritime, land systems as well as cyber,” said Weiss. “We aim that in about five to six years our land-related activities may well represent more than 20 percent of the company’s total sales and maritime-related activities will also increase significantly.” The group is continuing to invest heavily in medium- to long-term research and development, with a strong emphasis on unmanned aerial systems, missile defense systems and intelligence systems.
Geographical diversification is another important aspect of IAI’s strategy and the group has shown a willingness to commit capital for mergers and acquisitions. For instance, it has just set up a new cyber development business called Custodio in Singapore. “We continue to look for suitable companies for acquisition and joint ventures,” said Weiss.