StandardAero & Thales team up to certify autopilot system for light helicopters

StandardAero and Thales announced on Dec.9 a signed teaming agreement formalizing a mutual commitment for developing and certifying an advanced autopilot system for the light helicopter market. The system will initially be certified for installation on the popular Airbus AS350 platform.

The biggest seller was the H125 AStar, followed by the H145, H135 and H130, with a growing interest from the VIP/corporate sector. Anthony Pecchi Photo
StandardAero and Thales are to jointly develop and certify an advanced autopilot system for the light helicopter market, with initial focus on the Airbus AS350 platform. Anthony Pecchi Photo

Based on extensive autopilot experience, Thales has incorporated the features and safety design architecture usually found in multi-engine instrument flight rules (IFR) helicopters into its Compact Autopilot, now available to light helicopter platforms. Thales is offering a lightweight four-axis solution that enables permanent aircraft stabilization, eliminating the traditional dedicated flight control computer. The autopilot can also fully control the helicopter from initial hover to coupled approach and position-hold.

StandardAero brings its extensive and proven aftermarket experience in aircraft modifications and supplemental certification capabilities to the AS350 Compact Autopilot product. The company’s extensive engineering and certification knowledge serves to ensure the fielded solution will far exceed the basic certification requirements and will satisfy operators’ exacting expectations for system operation, airframe integration, simplified maintenance and product support.

“Our Compact Autopilot solution capitalizes on the proven levels of safety and reliability that are already deployed on larger air transport platforms. We will use this technology and experience as the basis for a cutting-edge, timely solution, bringing light helicopters into a new era,” said Christian Bardot, Thales vice president in charge of helicopter avionics business


“As part of our ongoing SAFECRAFT program, offering this state-of-the-art compact autopilot allows us to press forward in our aggressive pursuit of certifying innovative, transformational safety technologies that address many of the most common concerns our customers face, such as pilot fatigue and entry into inadvertent IMC conditions that can often result in LOC-I and CFIT situations,” said Elvis Moniz, StandardAero vice president of business development for airframes and avionics solutions. “These risks are well known throughout the industry by owners, operators and the pilots flying these machines, yet until now, we haven’t had the right technology available for this segment to adequately address the threat head on. That all changes today.”

Through StandardAero’s diverse aftermarket expertise and Thales’s proven avionics solutions, the two companies will deliver to the marketplace the most cost-effective and capable four-axis autopilot system for the AS350 series, featuring a sophisticated design that includes customer-driven, inherent capabilities that significantly optimize performance and improve safety.

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