Thales unveils lightest ever compact autopilot for helicopters

Thales unveils lightest ever compact autopilot for helicopters 9 Mar, 17, Source: Thales

System architecture drastically simplified to equip new built helicopters and upgrade existing fleets especially for SAR, EMS and HLS operators.  

Advanced helicopter autopilots have long been considered cumbersome and costly systems for the rotorcraft industry. Heavy and expensive, they have been almost exclusively used in the twin-heavy segment, and on the most high-end platforms.

This has been at odds with current market needs. Demanding missions, like Search And Rescue (SAR), Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Home Land Security (HLS), increasingly call for low level flight and adverse weather flying, which invariably benefits from an advanced autopilot. However, as most of these missions are performed by small helicopters, this is seen as one of the major drivers in the very high accident rate especially in the USA.

The Compact Autopilot has been designed to equip all aircraft including the lightest platforms both as a line-fit or a retrofit. Its reduced weight is driven by deletion of flight control computer. It instead relies on an innovative architecture based on two sets of three Smart actuators that can be configured on 3 or 4 axes with advanced modes like hover and departure modes.

“For more than 60 years, ever since we developed the autopilot of Concorde, Thales has been at the forefront of this technology in both Civil and Defence aircraft. Autopilots are a key safety and efficiency enhancer on which pilots rely to accomplish their missions. Therefore, I am extremely proud to introduce on the market Thales Compact Autopilot that will help light aircraft operators to accomplish more safely their most critical missions. Christian Bardot, Thales Vice President, Helicopter Avionics

This is a true breakthrough because it makes the entire autopilot system much ligther and cheaper. It also reduces the pilot’s workload by providing stability augmentation and attitude retention with altitude and heading hold. The Thales actuators provide stability without cyclick stick displacement, which simulated test flight show, makes the use of this autopilot a lot more confortable and intuitive for pilots without the need of additional training to compensate for cyclick displacement.

Thales Compact Autopilot true paradigm shift comes from the fact that system integration is the simplest in the market. Therefore it opens up the equipment of this sytem on new built and retrofit aircraft thus enabling EMS, SAR and Homeland security operators to upgrade their existing fleets easilly and cheaply to increase mission effectiveness and reduce pilots workload and mission risks.

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