Aspen's glass cockpit helicopter market expanding
Aspen Avionics has moved aggressively into the helicopter marketplace and is displaying its Evolution flight display glass cockpit systems in three helicopters at the Heli-Expo static display, a Schweizer 300C, Robinson R44 and Enstrom 480B. Aspen's Evolution systems include the EFD1000H pilot flight display (PFD) and moving-map MFD1000H and MFD500H multifunction displays (MFDs), with features designed specifically for helicopters, including a redesigned air data attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS).
“In 2009 we embarked on development to improve the core AHRS algorithms to address the dynamics of the helicopter market,” said Aspen co-founder and vice president of product development Peter Lyons. Aspen worked with a helicopter operator to flight test the new algorithms in a variety of dynamic maneuvers unique to helicopters, he said, and last year Aspen began selling the rotorcraft-specific variant of the fixed-wing PFD1000. The algorithms needed to be optimized for helicopter flight dynamics to ensure stable AHRS output during hover, transition to hover, quick acceleration to flying speeds and sideways flight, “making sure those maneuvers did not upset the AHRS solution,” he said. Other changes included new symbology and larger fonts on the HSI and tailoring terrain thresholds on the MFD for the helicopter operating environment. Aspen's helicopter displays also feature rotorcraft-specific vibration mounting.
Aspen is planning to offer NVG-compatible helicopter displays, according to Anson Gray, helicopter program manager. “We have in process several solutions for NVG,” he said. “They're internal modifications, but transparent, and the pilot can't tell the difference until he puts goggles on. We're not going in the direction of filters. We have extremely good looking units in NVG land.”
Aspen displays are installed in nearly 200 helicopters, mostly public-service ships, and the company is working with partners to develop supplemental type certificates (STCs) for additional installations. The Bell 206 was the first to receive an Aspen STC, and others should be awarded soon (or may have already been granted by the time this is published) for the Robinson R22 and R44, Bell 407, Eurocopter AS350, Enstrom 480B and Schweizer 300 series. Future approvals will include the AgustaWestland A109, Eurocopter BK117 and MD Helicopters 500. STCs are done under Part 27 VFR regulations.
Aspens PFDs and MFDs are uniquely suited to single or multiple installations. Both the PFD1000H ($14,995) and MFD1000H ($11,995) include ADAHRS and they can thus offer full reversionary capability in case one fails. If a second ADAHRS isn't needed, the MFD500H with moving-map, terrain, traffic, weather display and other MFD functions, costs less at $7,495.