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Cheap automation upgrades to existing helicopter models

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Cheap automation upgrades to existing helicopter models

Old 25th Jun 2019, 16:55
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Cheap automation upgrades to existing helicopter models

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/ar...by-wir-458940/

PARIS: Collins Aerospace unveils retrofit fly-by-wire kit

17 JUNE, 2019 SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM BY: DOMINIC PERRY PARIS
Collins Aerospace has launched a retrofit flight-control system in partnership with Sikorsky that can offer fly-by-wire performance to a range of rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.

Designed to replace an aircraft's traditional mechanical controls, the new system additionally offers a roadmap to autonomous or optionally piloted operations.

Using a series of electromechanical actuators with magnetic couplings driven by an enhanced flight-control computer, the system has been developed and tested in conjunction with helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky.

Parts of the system made their debut on the airframer's SARA technology demonstrator a modified S-76B before the latest iteration was developed, making its first flight on 29 May aboard Sikorsky's S-70 Black Hawk Optionally Piloted Vehicle.

Darryl Woods, general manager control systems at Collins Aerospace, describes the evolved hardware used by Sikorsky as "next generation".

Collin Aerospace is working to "productionise" the technology, says Woods, with an availability target of 2021.

It has seen interest from both civil and military rotorcraft markets "and more recently we are getting some interest from fixed-wing too", he adds.

Woods declines to disclose the size of the fixed-wing aircraft being considered for modification, although chief flight control engineer Steve Avritch says that "it is not going to happen" on small general aviation aircraft due to the cost involved.

"When you get to multiple pilot operations or larger drones, this is where the system makes sense," says Avritch.

Tests so far have been carried out by Sikorsky using a modified A-model Black Hawk in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

However, the US Army will in late 2019 install the system to one of its UH-60s likely to be an L-model example to conduct a "parallel test programme".

Although Collins Aerospace has one eye on the vast fleet of older Black Hawks currently in operation, Woods says that "one of the [programme's] ultimate goals is a cut-in on the production line to make the [current] UH-60M a fly-by-wire aircraft".

Collins Aerospace's current pre-production system uses an enhanced flight-control computer, but the eventual production system will use the next-generation Vehicle Management Computer, which the firm has been developing since 2018. This will have both US and European civil certifications, says Woods.

No details were available on the cost of the system, but Avritch describes it as a "low-cost upgrade". That is partly driven by the system's design, which does not require changes to the hydraulic system or actuator, removing the need for requalification.

Cyclic Hotline is offline  
Old 26th Jun 2019, 16:11
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This design offers infinite possibilities for inexpensive control automation for autopilots, from basic SAS systems to complete coupled autopilots and even autohover systems for incorporation into any kind of helicopter. The technology is certified and available off the shelf for to drive the system, but the cost of integration into the flight control system has always been prohibitive from a hardware, software and certification standpoint. This may be one of the most significant advances that will impact helicopter flight safety in the near future, and more it is developed, the less it will cost.
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Old 26th Jun 2019, 16:44
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Surely the software and certification issues are going to be even more costly - who is likely to install this kit and in what?

Sounds like marketing hype to try and get investors to pay for the R and D costs.
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Old 26th Jun 2019, 21:41
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Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Surely the software and certification issues are going to be even more costly - who is likely to install this kit and in what?

Sounds like marketing hype to try and get investors to pay for the R and D costs.
Looks like US taxpayers are already 'investing' in this effort:

Tests so far have been carried out by Sikorsky using a modified A-model Black Hawk in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
This looks like a typical DARPA project that pushes the state of the art and sometimes results in 'real world' systems 5-10 years down the road.
Not that many years ago DARPA sponsored an autonomous (land) vehicle contest for a couple of years, first year no vehicle completed the course.

Today cars that could finish the course are being tested by many companies and are mainly held back from sale by regulations/liability and snow/extreme conditions. (Where most people should not be on the road either.)
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Old 27th Jun 2019, 06:15
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There is nothing new about government agencies conducting testing, assessment and development of cutting edge technology but it is often the bringing a mature design to a market that is the issue.

If this is such a great invention/improvement, why aren't the aircraft manufacturers offering it themselves since fly by wire is hardly new.
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