The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) has unveiled a recommended practices document for developing stability augmentation systems and autopilots in light helicopters. “If light helicopters operating under visual flight rules could be enhanced to meet some of the instrument flight rule stability requirements, many loss-of-control accidents could be avoided,” said Nick Mayhew, USHST industry co-chair. “Aircraft stability would help a pilot maintain positive aircraft control during temporary losses of visual cueing or disorientation.”
According to the USHST, current light helicopters have challenging flight characteristics that impose a demanding pilot workload, while larger Part 29 transport category helicopters have had automatic flight control systems for more than 30 years that enhance safety during IMC and low visibility operations. Those systems are typically too heavy and too complex to integrate into light helicopters.
But Mayhew said new technology could provide a solution for light helicopters. “It may be possible to find automatic flight control system solutions that achieve sufficient stability and reliability through low-cost/low-weight systems.”
The USHST document includes information about automatic flight control functionality and performance and examines systems currently available from OEMs and third-party vendors, as well as those developed for UAS and eVTOL aircraft, with features such as self-leveling, altitude hold, automatic roll and yaw control, and omnidirectional collision avoidance.