In an industry as innovative and forward-thinking as the rotorcraft sector, where small changes can have huge repercussions on the success of a company, many rotorcraft companies are constantly striving to find new ways of gaining that competitive edge. So what are some of these innovations that are helping shape the future of the industry?
This week we caught up with Robert Clare, Director of Sales at Universal Avionics to get his thoughts on the development of technology in aviation.
NM: What have been the most significant advances in aviation technology since you first launched Universal Avionics in 1981?
RC: Several that come to mind include LCD flat panel displays, satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS), flight management systems (FMS), electronic charts and synthetic vision. These products not only significantly reduce the overall cost of avionics in the cockpit, but they also increase situational awareness and help reduce operating cost of the aircraft. Navigation with SBAS-FMS technology enhances precision, safety and efficiency.
Another big area that is changing constantly is communication technology. The improvements in air-to-ground communication over the last 30 years are tremendous. Products like our UniLink Communications Management Unit (CMU) interfaced with an SBAS-FMS, VDL radio and SATCOM provide digital link communication that is paving the way for the FAA’s NextGen initiative. These products deliver features such as automatic dependent surveillance contact and controller pilot data link communications.
NM: Are there any notable trends developing in aviation technology?
RC: I would say that the continuing implementation of the NextGen air transport is going to change the aviation industry quite dramatically in the United States. The Next Generation Air Transport System (NextGen) is a new national airspace system that is due to be implemented across the US between now and 2025. The NextGen programme will transform America’s air traffic control system, from a radar-based system that uses radio communication, to a satellite-based one. Connectivity is also a major trend. Everyone is now expected to be online, whether operating in the business aviation environment or the commercial aviation sector it is crucial to have a presence.
NM: How has Universal Avionics helped to improve safety in the rotorcraft industry?
RC: Universal Avionics is developing solutions like Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS), synthetic vision, Cockpit Voice/Flight Data Recorder (CVR/FDR) and SBAS-FMS. These are products that significantly reduce accidents, improve overall situational awareness, and provide value to the operator. A good example is rotorcraft that operate in the Gulf of Mexico. ADS-B technology, which our SBAS-FMS is a key requirement for, allows operators to reach offshore oil rigs in the most treacherous kinds of weather. There are rotorcraft operators that have realised a significant increase in flight hours during periods of low visibility and increased overall safety.
NM: What potential concerns do you have for the aviation/rotorcraft industry in the next five years?
RC: A concern that comes to mind is the challenge to bring these new technologies to existing rotorcraft in the field. There are thousands of rotorcraft operating in all areas of the world that are in need of these upgrades. The lack of Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) that are available today is a contributing factor. The time it takes to do an STC for a given programme is challenging and expensive. Another variable is the challenge of integrating older or existing equipment on these airframes with newer products that are emerging.
Universal Avionics Systems Corporation
Universal Avionics is a leading manufacturer to the large turbine aircraft, helicopter, government, airline and OEM markets. The company was founded by Hubert L. Naimer who formulated the details of a “Master Navigation System”, which led to the development of the world’s first Flight Management System (FMS). Over 30 years later, Universal Avionics has expanded its product line and delivered breakthrough technologies to the industry that offer incredible safety improvements, situational awareness and operational benefits for operators.
Universal Avionics is exhibiting at Helitech International 2016, 11-13 October 2016 at the RAI Amsterdam, on stand 10C10