US Astronautics Corporation (Astronautics) announced a plethora of exciting updates at the HAI Heli Expo this year: its new Wireless Airborne Communications System (wACS) was debuted; it launched its new family of flight and mission-critical displays called Ibex; it will be providing United Rotorcraft with its AFI 4700 RoadRunner electronic flight instruments (EFIS) – which are also scheduled to be flight tested at the end of March; and it has received a purchase order from Lockheed Martin.
Astronautics has received a purchase order from Lockheed Martin to upgrade its primary flight and navigation displays on the P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker (LRT) and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft for the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.
AFD 6800 EFIS will update the P-3 flight deck with four 6x8-inch multifunction displays – two primary flight and two navigation – on 14 aircraft with additional spares. As part of the upgrade, Astronautics will port existing software from its current displays in order to minimize training and certification impacts, and additionally create harnesses for equipment installation.
Robert Koelling, Astronautics Director of Business Development, explained: “For the US Customs and Border Protection, Astronautics provided an incremental, modular plan for upgrading its P-3 fleet that limited aircraft downtime and met budget and schedule needs.”
This new family of flight and mission-critical displays from Astronautics is qualified to shock, high altitude, and extreme temperatures to meet all mission requirements. “The Ibex family are lightweight, passively cooled flight and mission-critical displays designed for the highest reliability in the toughest environments,” said Astronautics President Chad Cundiff. “We are using a semi-smart, scalable firmware electronics platform that can be easily tailored across a range of display sizes and interfaces. Ibex is designed for high-brightness cockpits that also require best-in-class contrast ratios. The display family supports touchscreen or bezel button configurations.”
Test flights for the EFI on an A-109 are scheduled to begin at the end of March in preparation for FAA STC certification. There will be two RoadRunner EFIs per aircraft and they are being provided to United Rotorcraft as cost-effective, drop-in replacements on two FIREHAWK helicopters operated by the Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD). “Enabling our customers to achieve mission success is what we do at Astronautics,” said Koelling. “The RoadRunner EFI provides United Rotorcraft, and ultimately the VCFD, an easy path to upgrade with enhanced capability now and into the future.”
Wrapping up the list of developments from Astronautics, wACS successfully completed initial ground tests on Airbus Helicopters’ H145 aircraft.
“This successful ground test was a great accomplishment for both the Astronautics and Airbus teams,” said Astronautics Director of Connected Aircraft Solutions Ed Callahan. “The entire system was tested end-to-end from the airborne hardware to the secure ground system, enabling secure two-way data transmittal. The ability to securely push data to the aircraft is a real game changer. We are looking forward to supporting Airbus Helicopters’ flight operations and maintenance services with this state-of-the-art secure connectivity solution that provides value to Airbus Helicopters operators in the form of enhanced capabilities with lower operating costs.”
Flight testing will commence later this month with the wACS product being standard fit for most Airbus Helicopters production aircraft within the next 18 to 24 months.
March’s HAI Heli Expo saw the announcement of many innovative new technologies and strategic collaborations – its great to see lots of new developments coming from just one exhibitor alone!