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Smart autopilot concept makes light work for helicopter pilots

Apr 13. 2017 

Thales has launched a new Compact Autopilot system that weighs so little it can equip light helicopters. The technology opens up new opportunities for light helicopter operators and expands the range of missions they can fly.

The story of Thales autopilots dates back more than 60 years, when we first developed the systems for the A300 and for Concorde, and has since continued through dozens of aircraft programmes including the A320. Today, Thales autopilots are in service on board many types of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and have clocked up hundreds of million flight hours between them.

The latest in this long line of products is a Compact Autopilot system principally designed for light helicopters, which generally have not been equipped with autopilots because of weight considerations. This gap in the market has led to higher pilot workloads and a real risk of accidents.

No more weight considerations

The new Compact Autopilot from Thales can be fitted to light and medium helicopters as a linefit or retrofit system. Traditionally, helicopter autopilots have needed one or more dedicated onboard computers, but with our new concept all the necessary computing power is integrated in the actuator itself. The innovative Smart+ Actuator solution provides weight savings of several kilos, which can be a game-changer in this class of helicopters.

The new autopilot provides the same functions as systems designed for larger helicopters, both hands-on and hands-off, substantially reducing workload and enabling the pilot to concentrate on the mission in hand. This is especially valuable on complex missions like medical evacuations or search & rescue. And when it takes less work to fly the aircraft, there will no doubt be more and more scope for the kinds of missions assigned to light helicopters in the future.

Read more about the compact autopilot for helicopters here or watch the video below:

This innovative solution provides weight savings of several kilos, which can be a game-changer in light helicopters.

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