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Airbus Helicopters is planning on having a new version of its Helionix avionics suite certified this year for the H135, H145 and H175. Improvements will be seen in the helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS) and synthetic vision systems (SVS) on all three models. The H175 will also benefit from a more advanced search-and-rescue (SAR) mode, as well as automated rig approaches.
The software update, dubbed “Step 3” on the H175 and “Maintenance Release 1” on the other two types, will be the same, except for those functions that require special equipment, such as for SAR.
HTAWS algorithms have been improved to recognize a situation when the helicopter is normally close to the ground, Christian Franot, manager of the Helionix program, told Vertical. A lot of false alarms are thus avoided.
The previous version of Helionix did include an SVS but it was only displaying terrain. Obstacles, helipads and objects like roads have been added. The pilot may want to declutter the display by removing some objects, Franot adds.
The digital map has been augmented, too. Ships and rigs are now identified thanks to their automated information system (the equivalent of a transponder). Information is displayed only at the altitude range that is useful for the crew. Moreover, in response to customer feedback, the avionics suite can hold larger maps.
Other customer feedback has also been taken into account. SkyTrack and SkyConnect — two solutions for an operator to locate their aircraft and receive maintenance notifications — can be integrated. The instrument panel has been simplified thanks to the replacement of “hard” radio controls with “soft” controls on a display.
For the H175, the main application of which is in offshore oil-and-gas, approaches and takeoffs have been automated. The GPS-navigation-assisted software program is the same as the H225’s Rig’N Fly, now described as an Airbus family concept. It aims to make approaches and takeoffs safer and simpler at platform-based helipads. Rig’N Fly reduces pilot workload, allowing the rotorcraft’s crew to focus on monitoring flight parameters and the outside environment. Once the approach is prepared, only two pilot inputs are required. The system can be used even if the oil platform has moved. Approach flight paths are thus much more standardized.
On the H175, pilot workload has been reduced for SAR operations, too. A search radar, an optronics system (including sensors in visible light and infrared) and a search light have been integrated. Recent, already certified improvements include automated SAR approaches, specific ground speed integration into the autopilot and automated hover over a moving ship. The hoist operator can fine-tune the helicopter’s position with a joystick.
The latest Helionix update will be available as a retrofit. “For software-related retrofit, we want customers to be able to do it themselves as a download, with a service bulletin,” Franot says.
Helionix uses three displays on the H135 and the H145, and four displays on the larger H175. A two-display variant is being studied as a lighter, simplified version for a smaller helicopter, but without any firm plan for a product development.