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Rotorcraft Asia: Honeywell anticipates SATCOM boom

11th April 2017 - 09:06 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Hong Kong

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Honeywell believes connectivity for helicopters will be a boom market in the future, as fleet operators invest in SATCOM solutions that will enhance safety, efficiency and productivity.

The company quoted Market Research Engine, which predicts the connected aircraft market could exceed $6 billion in the next three years alone, and that Asia-Pacific will grab a share of that sector.

Derek Lockett, Asia-Pacific sales director for Honeywell Aerospace's Defense & Space division, told Shephard that helicopters for EMS and SAR applications in particular would benefit from solutions such as Honeywell's Aspire 200 SATCOM system that allows connectivity through the rotor blades.

The rotation of rotor blades normally chops up SATCOM signals, but the Aspire 200 high-data rate system helps overcome this obstacle. Aspire 200 operates on the global Inmarsat I-4 satellite network, and the SwiftBroadband channel provides up to 650kbps per channel, compared to the standard 432kbps rate.

Helicopters already have a 35% greater chance per flying hour of crashing compared to fixed-wing aircraft, and multi-mission EMS and SAR helicopters that fly in unpredictable environments further face the risk of an accident.

By leveraging connectivity, Lockett highlighted that pilots and operators could increase safety by allowing troubleshooting and identifying potential faults or maintenance issues before they occur.

For EMS tasks, connectivity brings a multitude of benefits within the critical 'golden hour'. Pilots, for example, can utilise low latency voice, real-time data transfer and aircraft tracking to safely complete flight missions.

In the rear of the helicopter, hospitals can monitor in real-time the vital signs of patients, and begin preparing for a patient's arrival. Webcams aboard the helicopter could allow consultants to zoom the camera in on patients or to relay advice to paramedics to improve patient treatment.

Lockett described such technology as a 'game-changer' for the EMS sector.

The idea is certainly beginning to gather interest in the Asia-Pacific region, with Lockett revealing that it will demonstrate Aspire 200 to two Australian EMS operators this year.

While the EMS sector is yet to take off in places like Southeast Asia and India, when it does there will be even greater potential for such SATCOM systems for rotorcraft.

Honeywell is currently working through the process of obtaining supplemental type certificates for various helicopter platforms for installation of Aspire 200.

With a number of fleet managers and militaries struggling with budgetary restrictions, Honeywell's proprietary Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) make sense for helicopters too, Lockett declared.

Data can be streamed directly from an airborne aircraft to pinpoint areas requiring preventive maintenance. Lockett quoted a figure of 20% increased availability stemming from the use of HUMS, as well as cost savings of 5-6%. Thus, he said, the 'payback time is quick'.

With carry-on and onboard systems available, HUMS can be permanently installed on new platforms or temporarily fitted to aircraft. Lockett said Honeywell is seeing an increased uptake in commercial helicopters, at least in medium-size and above platforms.

Honeywell is currently in the process of more than doubling its sales team in the region to meet future demand for its various products. The JetWave Satcom system, for example, would provide connectivity for civil and military aircraft.

Such technologies as automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS–B) to improve safety and airworthiness are filtering down as more aviation authorities mandate them. Lockett pointed out that Honeywell has solutions for all safety equipment such as traffic collision avoidance systems and ground proximity warning systems.

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