Rotorcraft will likely leapfrog fixed wing aircraft in the realm of cockpit technology within a decade, judging by new products and details announced at Heli-Expo, including Bell's 525R super-medium twin and new information from Eurcopter on its X4 twin.
Bell's new cockpit, the ARC Horizon, marries a Garmin G5000H - a system based on the fixed wing G5000 integrated avionics suite - with a BAE fly-by-wire (FBW) system and Bell overarching systems engineering.
The cockpit is being designed for heightened awareness of all flight conditions, along with the ability to correctly react to situations through control from the FBW system. Bell said the pilot side and co-pilot collective and cyclic controls will be slaved together electronically - a feature BAE has provided for military helicopters.
Garmin said ARC Horizon will feature its infrared-sensing touch screen control units, 3D audio and rudimentary voice command control for navigation and communication radio switching. "As the product matures, we hope to certify more commands in future," a Garmin official said.
One-upping Bell's advanced design are inklings of what Eurocopter has in store for the X4 - the replacement for its EC155 Dauphin medium twin - beyond 2017.
Eurocopter chief executive Lutz Bertling, speaking at Heli-Expo in Dallas, Texas, said the X4 will arrive in two waves - the first in 2017, when the helicopter will go to market with the advanced airframe, engines and dynamic chain portions, and the second in 2020, when the "game-changing" cockpit arrives, with a "major breakthrough" in safety.
"The level of innovation is so huge that we need a stepped approach," said Bertling, adding that Thales and Sagem are partners on the design. Along with FBW side-stick controllers, the company envisions a flightdeck with a small interactive central console, 3D audio information and helmet-mounted displays with large fields of view for the pilot.