Safety and capacity driving future innovations
Assuring safe flight operations and increasing capacity are the two main challenges for helicopters in the years ahead. Emmanuel Guyonnet, strategy director for Helicopter Avionics, explains how Thales intends to meet them.
We are already developing systems that give pilots a better picture of their environment without increasing their cognitive workload. Making it easier to fly the helicopter allows pilots to focus more of their attention on the mission. At the same time, improving situational awareness, including in degraded visibility conditions, optimises helicopter operations.
What kind of technologies are involved?
New head-up displays (HUDs) will be able to project symbology onto the visor in front of the pilot’s eyes in a degraded visual environment. Adding synthetic 3D symbology in this way gives pilots the information they need to land in the most dangerous conditions like ‘brownouts’, for example, when the helicopter sweeps up dust or sand particles as it makes its approach.
The TAWS software (Terrain Awareness Warning System) gives pilots a better view of obstacles and terrain and alerts them in the event of danger, taking into account the manoeuvring capability of each helicopter type.
What other challenges lie ahead?
We are going to have to bring the digital revolution into the cockpit, connecting the ‘open world’ with avionics systems without compromising safety. The helicopter will have to be at the centre of a broader system interconnected with ground troops, other helicopters and unmanned aerial systems.
So our role is to conceive cockpits capable of accommodating these evolutions while mitigating their impact on pilot workload. Our Avionics 2020 concept heralds a next-generation cockpit that is more functional and easier to use, with an open architecture and a modular design, and an intuitive user interface.
We are also involved in the French HIL programme, which aims to develop by 2030 a single joint forces platform to replace the armed forces’ current light helicopters. And we are working on the technologies needed for future helicopter combat systems, particularly the TopOwl helmet-mounted display (HMD).
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