TracPlus and Airborne Mission Systems launch AFDAU-T1 data system

TracPlus Global and Aircraft Maintenance Solutions (AMS) have launched the aerial firefighting data acquisition unit, AFDAU-T1 — a product set to revolutionize the way aerial firefighters collect and report operational data, according to the companies.

The AFDAU-T1 offers unique benefits for rotary and fixed-wing operators, according to the manufacturers. Airborne Mission Systems Photo
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Designed to meet the National Aerial Firefighting Centre of Australia’s (NAFC) OPS-14 standards, AFDAU-T1 is the first automatic bucket calibration and digital data collection tool for aerial firefighters. The new NAFC standard stipulates that operators must accurately collect and report volume collected/dropped, engine start/stop and takeoffs/landings and proof of substantive flow from an aircraft.

The product offers unique benefits for rotary and fixed-wing operators. For rotary aircraft, AFDAU-T1 removes the need for manual calibration/recalibration of a bucket, meaning that no pilot interaction is required, even when swapping buckets in a slung load configuration. For fixed-wing operators, the device automatically and accurately detects operational data for accurate reporting — including proof of substantive flow from a hopper, as outlined by the new NAFC standard.

“Our goal was to bring a dedicated aerial firefighting data acquisition unit to the market that had been designed to meet the NAFC event reporting contract requirements,” said AFDAU-T1 lead engineer, Zane Vohland. “With AFDAU-T1, operators don’t need to worry about data accuracy. They will have peace of mind that their data is reliable, automatic and accurate.”

Vohland and his team work in alliance with NAFC to ensure the technology allows operators to meet the requirements of their contract.

Together, the AFDAU-T1 and RockAIR devices allow data to be sent and stored in TracPlus for proof of compliance and reporting. This data is also sent to NAFC’s ARENA software to allow contractors to fulfil contractual event reporting requirements.

“NAFC has followed the development of AFDAU-T1 closely and are encouraged to see this equipment become available for firefighting aircraft in Australia. NAFC is pleased that there is now an additional device on the market for operators wishing to fulfil contractual event reporting requirements, particularly the difficult task of reporting firefighting bucket fill and drop volumes,” said Andrew Matthews, manager capacity, NAFC.

Aerial firefighting is hugely costly for operators, especially when they are grounded due to faulty equipment. It is the belief of AMS and TracPlus that operators deserve affordable, yet reliable, products and utilizing modern technologies, AFDAU-T1 offers a price point significantly lower than current systems on the market.

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“In 2018, we started to trial the AFDAU-T1 prototype in one of our BK117’s,” said established aerial firefighter, Jim Norrie of United Aero Helicopters. “We had been looking for an alternate and cost-effective solution to meet our contractual firefighting needs and saw the TracPlus/AFDAU-T1/RockAIR combination as a possible solution. From day one the diligent team at Airborne Mission Systems proved successful in accomplishing and meeting our requirements. We’ve now seen one very busy fire season of data collection with the AFDAU-T1 unit and the results have been outstanding. We are now planning to upgrade our legacy systems through the fleet.”

Fixed-wing operators have also been testing the device, which is exceeding expectations.

“Our initial results have been far above our expectations. The combination of AFDAU-T1 and RockAIR is cost-effective, yet offers a solution that is streets ahead of the competition. I am excited to be testing an innovative product built by leaders in the aerial firefighting world,” said Michael (Mick) Gribble, founder of Alpine Airwork.

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