standardaero makes progress in its helicopter autopilot system project

March 4, 2019

StandardAero and Thales announced continued progress in their partnership focused on a new light helicopter autopilot system, with an in-depth market study and design definition now complete, and planning underway for the next phase of development. This advanced autopilot system is one element of StandardAero’s SAFECRAFT portfolio, comprised of various safety upgrade equipment specifically dedicated for the light helicopter market, initially targeting the Airbus Helicopters AS350 helicopter platform.

Over the course of the past four months, the joint team has performed the first phase of the program, which included the collection of market input directly from operators to understand the unique requirements of light helicopter operators across a wide variety of mission profiles, as well as the definition of design requirements for the initial introduction of this system into the popular AS350 platform.

“Our efforts in the deployment of this light helicopter autopilot system are firmly embedded in our overall safety approach as part of our SAFECRAFT initiative,” said Rick Stine, President of StandardAero Components, Helicopters & Accessories.  “We are very excited to be working in partnership with a world-class innovator such as Thales, and we believe that with our combined expertise, the introduction of this truly one-of-a-kind, advanced autopilot solution will prove effective in addressing many of the known safety concerns operators are facing today.”

Introduction of this new autopilot system to the market will bring unprecedented technological capability to light helicopter platforms, unlike anything else on the market today.  This advancement is slated to be the first of its kind, bringing proven, transport category levels of capability and safety to the light helicopter market.  Features and capabilities built into the design of the system will be in direct correlation with the needs of operators, based on input received over the course of the program’s development.

Since the very first autopilot development for the Concorde 60 years ago, Thales has developed a strong expertise in this domain with civil and military programs worldwide, including state-of-the-art 4-axis duplex helicopter AFCS, certified for single pilot IFR, SAR, and more.  Based on this successful experience and the billions of flight hours cumulated on autopilots, Thales was able to propose the ideal solution for the light helicopter segment.  Thanks to its high level of integration, the Thales Compact Autopilot weight is reduced by not requiring a main Flight Control Computer.  While being compact, the Thales solution provides a very high level of safety, increases mission capability and availability.

The next phase of deployment for the new autopilot system, under discussion, is planned to begin later this year and will include flight testing.  While the AS350 helicopter is the initial launch platform for this system into the light helicopter market, additional helicopter platforms are also being considered for future expansion of this adaptable safety solution.  Visitors of the Heli-Expo trade show and exposition taking place March 5 – 7, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia who would like to learn more about StandardAero’s SAFECRAFT portfolio are welcome to visit booth #B1429, where a helicopter demonstrator incorporating the joint StandardAero and Thales autopilot system will be on display.