With Brazilian, European, and U.S. approvals in hand for installation of its AFI 4700 RoadRunner electronic flight instrument (EFI) on Leonardo A109/119 helicopters, Astronautics (Booth C9836) is looking to certify the unit on additional helicopter and fixed-wing platforms, as well as working on a series of upgrades.
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-headquartered electronics specialist unveiled RoadRunner in 2016 as a drop-in replacement for legacy attitude director indicator and horizontal situation indicator primary flight instruments. Capable of displaying terrain awareness, traffic, weather, and synthetic vision, RoadRunner is designed to help lower operating costs, and with minimal installation downtime.
Working with an installation partner, Astronautics obtained U.S. FAA approval in June, followed by EASA and ANAC nods on the A109/119 in subsequent months. Next up, said Astronautics president Chad Cundiff, is approval from India. “Units are going around the world,” Cundiff said.
Astronautics has turned to additional platforms, including Bell 212s and 412s, and is working with Ventura County Fire Department in California to equip three HH-60Ls as part of a Firehawk upgrade.
On the fixed-wing side, Astronautics has discussed installations with both military and commercial turboprop operators, Cundiff said, but was not yet ready to disclose customers. “We’ve got a lot of work going on right now.”
In addition to its expansion in the marketplace, Astronautics has been putting the final touches on the first upgrades for RoadRunner. “We’re planning a nice set of incremental upgrades,” he said. The first batch addresses interfaces with certain legacy navigation equipment, along with customizations requested by customers, Cundiff said. The company further is plotting out two more upgrade phases with additional features, he added, saying plans call to further detail those enhancements in upcoming months. However, he did say the changes will add functionality that customers have requested and “show our ability to continue to grow that platform.”
Meanwhile, work also is progressing on Astronautics’s Air-Ground Communications System (AGCS) for helicopters, turboprops, and light business jets. It has been in flight test aboard Airbus H145 and H160 helicopters since spring. Initial production units have been shipped to Airbus as it prepares for ramp up on the program that the airframer calls wACS (wireless Airborne Communications System). An air-to-ground data management platform, the communications system provides the ability to securely get information on and off aircraft.
While testing has been ongoing as part of Airbus’s certification program, Astronautics separately has demonstrated the ability to use the system for inflight cabin connectivity as well. AGCS enables connectivity with the Internet, and depending on “what pipes are available within the platform,” it can integrate with an in-flight entertainment system. This includes streaming content, accessing email, and other connectivity activities. “We're eager to talk to customers at NBAA about the fact that AGCS isn't just the solution for your data needs, but it's also a solution for your cabin side,” he said. “There's a lot of interest in the market. We’ve been working with a number of customers on demonstration programs to prove this out.”