Thales Unveils Lightest Ever Compact Autopilot for Helicopters
(Source: Thales; issued March 07, 2017)
On the opening day of the Heliexpo 2017 exhibition, Thales has unveiled the smallest lightest autopilot in the market. The Thales Compact Autopilot opens up the use of autopilot systems to all sizes of rotorcraft.

Key Points

--Thales unveils the smallest and lightest autopilot in the market.
--Designed to meet needs of lighter aircraft which undertake complex missions requiring autopilot but could not previously afford it.

System architecture drastically simplified to equip new built helicopters and upgrade existing fleets especially for SAR, EMS and HLS operators.

Advanced helicopter autopilots have long been considered cumbersome and costly systems for the rotorcraft industry. Heavy and expensive, they have been almost exclusively used in the twin-heavy segment, and on the most high-end platforms.

This has been at odds with current market needs. Demanding missions, like Search And Rescue (SAR), Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Home Land Security (HLS), increasingly call for low level flight and adverse weather flying, which invariably benefits from an advanced autopilot. However, as most of these missions are performed by small helicopters, this is seen as one of the major drivers in the very high accident rate especially in the USA.

The Compact Autopilot has been designed to equip all aircraft including the lightest platforms both as a line-fit or a retrofit. Its reduced weight is driven by deletion of flight control computer. It instead relies on an innovative architecture based on two sets of three Smart actuators that can be configured on 3 or 4 axes with advanced modes like hover and departure modes.

“For more than 60 years, ever since we developed the autopilot of Concorde, Thales has been at the forefront of this technology in both Civil and Defence aircraft. Autopilots are a key safety and efficiency enhancer on which pilots rely to accomplish their missions. Therefore, I am extremely proud to introduce on the market Thales Compact Autopilot that will help light aircraft operators to accomplish more safely their most critical missions. Christian Bardot, Thales Vice President, Helicopter Avionics

This is a true breakthrough because it makes the entire autopilot system much lighter and cheaper. It also reduces the pilot’s workload by providing stability augmentation and attitude retention with altitude and heading hold. The Thales actuators provide stability without cyclic stick displacement, which simulated test flight show, makes the use of this autopilot a lot more comfortable and intuitive for pilots without the need of additional training to compensate for cyclic displacement.

Thales Compact Autopilot true paradigm shift comes from the fact that system integration is the simplest in the market. Therefore, it opens up the equipment of this system on new built and retrofit aircraft thus enabling EMS, SAR and Homeland security operators to upgrade their existing fleets easily and cheaply to increase mission effectiveness and reduce pilot workload and mission risks.

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