In addition to education and training opportunities, the annual Airborne Law Enforcement Association annual convention, held in Reno, Nev., in late July, provided a venue for companies to announce orders and showcase technology to enhance operators' missions.
Robertson Fuel Systems (RFS) began flight-testing an Airbus Helicopters AS350 crash-resistant fuel tank (CRFT) after completing 50-foot drop testing. Robertson is developing the CRFT in conjunction with Vector Aerospace. Robertson noted that legislation was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 4574) that would mandate installation of crashworthy fuel systems on all new-build helicopters regardless of their original certification date. The legislation was proposed in the wake of a 2015 AS350 Flight for Life crash in Colorado that investigators deemed survivable save for a post-crash fire. The FAA Reauthorization Act has an amendment that requires the agency to make helicopter owners aware of fuel system retrofits and urge them to install retrofits “as soon as practicable.” RFS CEO Newman Shufflebarger said the company hopes to have the CRFT certified this year. The CRFT is being developed by RFS and Vector as a direct replacement for all AS350 models, including the H125 (AS350B3e), as well as for the EC130B4. The design features a crash-resistant fuel bladder and uses a magneto-resistive fuel quality transmitter to prevent the tank from being compromised in an accident. The CRFT can be ordered from either RFS or Vector. Air Methods and WeatherTech Aviation are the announced launch customers to date.
New Zealand-based aircraft tracking and management specialist Spidertracks announced a partnership with cloud-based aviation software company Aeronet to deliver a process that simplifies keeping a current and accurate flight log and maintenance schedule. Spidertracks CEO Dave Blackwell said the partnership will provide a simple way for operators to manage their fleet maintenance. “For many years now we’ve enabled our customers greater operational control, safety management and process efficiencies through our tracking and communication products. We see a lot of examples where aircraft operators are having to work in disparate systems and duplicate data entry in an effort to get the job done. What we’re doing here is automating these work flows and integrating systems to provide greater efficiency and more reliable data, which will ultimately deliver significant cost savings.” Aeronet founder Aaron Shipman said the derivative solution will be “more accessible, more mobile and more up-to-date” than traditional maintenance tracking systems because it will “automate the connection all the way through to the aircraft and provide operators with a truly integrated maintenance operation.” He said the end product will “disrupt an otherwise inefficient market.”
Texas-based AeroBrigham announced plans to install and support a new generation of compact, encrypted video streaming equipment from aircraft. The company said it would provide integration, distribution and support for Serastar Technologies' Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Recon System (Stars) that streams video in a compact ISR video transmission and recording platform using simultaneous Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, Manet Radio and Harris tactical transceivers and therefore is not dependent on line-of-sight access. Via a secure back-end server (Internet), the signal can then be distributed to authorized and authenticated users around the globe. The system can record up to six hours of video and integrates with Android Tactical Assault Kit (Atak) and has remote playback and recording with VLC, QuickTime or other compatible player mediums. AeroBrigham emphasized that the Stars is lighterand less expensive than traditional microwave downlinks from aircraft. The system can process analog video signals and convert them to a digital format for transmission. Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and Wescam platforms, Leupold Mk IV spotting scope with Kaishot camera as well as analog video feeds are all compatible with the system.
Airbus Helicopters delivered two new H125 AStars to the San Bernadino County (CA) Sheriff's Department, part of a long-term plan to update the department's six AS350B3s. San Bernadino uses the helicopters for patrol, high-altitude rescues and fire suppression. The department flies 22,000 hours per year. According to Airbus, 220 H125/AS350s are in use across the U.S. with 54 different law enforcement agencies, making it the most popular law enforcement helicopter in the U.S. and accounting for one-third of deliveries into the sector over the last decade. The H125 is built at Airbus Helicopters' plant in Columbus, Miss.
Leonardo announced that the the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police has selected the AW119Kx for operations in support of water-supply protection. It will be equipped with FLIR, external loudspeakers, rappelling and cargo hooks, expanded fuel system, a foldable stretcher, high-visibility crew doors on both sides of the aircraft and provisions for a Bambi Bucket to be used for firefighting operations. Delivery of the aircraft is expected next year.