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StandardAero and Thales to advance autopilot for light helicopters


December 11, 2019
By Helicopters Staff


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StandardAero and Thales signed what the companies describe as a teaming agreement to formalize a mutual commitment for developing and certifying an advanced autopilot system for the light helicopter market. The development agreement will leverage the currently available system called Compact Autopilot and initially be certified for installation on the Airbus Helicopters AS350 platform.

Thales explains it has incorporated the features and safety design architecture usually found in multi-engine Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) helicopters into its Compact Autopilot, which is again currently available to light helicopter platforms. Thales is offering a lightweight four-axis solution that enables what it describes as permanent aircraft stabilization, eliminating the traditional dedicated flight control computer. The autopilot can also fully control the helicopter from initial hover to coupled approach and position-hold.

“Our Compact Autopilot solution capitalizes on the proven levels of safety and reliability that are already deployed on larger air transport platforms,” said Christian Bardot, Thales vice-president in charge of the company’s Helicopter Avionics business. “We will use this technology and experience as the basis for a cutting-edge, timely solution, bringing light helicopters into a new era.”

StandardAero brings its aftermarket experience in aircraft modifications and supplemental certification capabilities to the AS350 Compact Autopilot product. The company states its engineering and certification knowledge will ensure the fielded solution far exceeds basic certification requirements to ultimately satisfy operators’ expectations for system operation, airframe integration, simplified maintenance and product support.

“As part of our ongoing SAFECRAFT program, offering this state-of-the-art compact autopilot allows us to press forward in our aggressive pursuit of certifying innovative, transformational safety technologies that address many of the most common concerns our customers face, such as pilot fatigue and entry into inadvertent IMC conditions that can often result in LOC-I and CFIT situations,” said Elvis Moniz, StandardAero VP of business development for Airframes and Avionics Solutions. “These risks are well known throughout the industry by owners, operators and the pilots flying these machines, yet until now, we haven’t had the right technology available for this segment to adequately address the threat head on.”