Prix Réussite of the AAAF: Autopilots

The Avionique Nouvelle project was launched approximately ten years ago to develop automatic flight control systems for the new range of Eurocopter helicopters. The team behind the project has just been awarded the Prix Réussite by the Association Aéronautique & Astronautique de France (AAAF).

© Eurocopter / P.Penna
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“This is a truly amazing autopilot in terms of hover control and acquisition. The stability is incredible: we can hold a position to within a foot.” This was the verdict of Squadron Leader Le Barbenchon when the EC725 entered into service with the 1/67 “Pyrénées” helicopter squadron.

The aim of these automatic flight control systems is to reduce pilot workload and improve the comfort and operational safety of the helicopter, along with the effectiveness of the mission, across an extensive flight envelope (from hover to cruising flight). From the outset, this digital autopilot concept was designed to cover the entire range of twin-engine aircraft, with an initial 3-axis autopilot on the EC135, the EC155 and the EC145. The concept was then extended to the 4- axis autopilot on the EC155 and EC225, and was further extended with the addition of the “SAR modes” on the EC225/EC725. These autopilots are based on the concept of the Avionique Nouvelle family in order to optimise the instrument panel. The advantage is that pilots will find the same functionalities on most of the aircraft of the Eurocopter range.
Protection functions for the flight envelope have also been introduced, including an automatic control mode with path optimisation, to manage the acceleration from hover flight, and collective pitch control in the event of engine failure.
The use of the latest analysis techniques has considerably speeded up the in-flight fine-tuning and software adjustment processes. These techniques are applied at every stage from the full simulation, which is re-configured after the model is identified in flight, to the use of real-time autopilot test equipment. The end result is the very fast adaptation of the control laws applied to meet the wishes of the crews for each type of mission. New applications are expected very soon on other versions of the Dauphin for civil (Coast Guards) and military missions, on the KUH (Korean Utility Helicopter) developed with Korea, and on retrofits for military aircraft (CH53).


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On 18 December 2007, Marc Salesse- Lavergne accepted the Prix Réussite awarded by the Association Aéronautique & Astronautique de France (AAAF), in Paris, for the development and certification of a new generation of autopilots in record time. Marc collected the award on behalf of the Avionique Nouvelle helicopter autopilots team at Eurocopter. This prize recognises a team that has stood out by conducting a far-reaching project whose technical or scientific achievement enhances the fields of aeronautics and space. Previous winners were the teams behind the Spot 1, Ariane V and Mars Express projects.