Rescue demonstration highlights Eurocopter avionics thrust

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Eurocopter has successfully demonstrated a host of advanced navigation and surveillance technologies as part of Europe's mature applications of Galileo for emergency services (MAGES) programme.

The work is part of a broader technology push by the airframer to develop workload reducing, safety-boosting cockpit aids for single-pilot operations in fixed- and rotary wing aircraft.

The MAGES test involved an EC145 equipped to receive simulated Galileo satellite constellation navigation signals from six transmission antennas located on mountaintops in Berchtesgaden in southern Germany. Europe expects to make Galileo operational in 2014.

Eurocopter used the satellite-based positioning and on-board attitude information to drive a company-built synthetic vision system with tunnel-in-the-sky symbology that the pilot used to navigate mountainous terrain to locate and "rescue" an injured firefighter.

Partner company Funkwerk Avionics developed a battery-powered portable automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast "out" unit that broadcast the position of the downed firefighter while the EC145 carried an ADS-B "in" unit that presented the exact rescue location on a cockpit display.

The company says the tools, combined with an obstacle detection system, traffic data and back-up navigation capability provided by the US-built GPS constellation could in the future allow for safer all-weather emergency medical services operations.

Eurocopter developed its synthetic vision and tunnel-in-the-sky technologies under its pilot assistance system programme. Programme manager Stefan Haisch says the company developed a 30m (98ft) terrain database overlaid with aerial imagery of two test locations for the system.

During 35h of flight testing on an EC145, the company demonstrated new safety tools including real-time traffic vectors and 3D displays of weather hazards received over a datalink. The system also features an automatic rerouting option, which presents the pilot with alternative routing around hazardous weather.

Haisch says Eurocopter is now analysing the new functionality in terms of how to gain certification for forward-fit applications, with synthetic vision or possibly the tunnel-in-the-sky flight path the most likely first candidates.