It’s a surprising fact, but many military, commercial and private helicopters do not have on-board flight data monitoring (FDM) systems to capture critical aircraft performance data. Although FDMs are recognized as significant contributors to avionics safety, FDM technology has historically been too heavy and expensive to deploy on extremely weight-sensitive aircraft like helicopters and other lightweight legacy craft.
In partnership with Eurocopter, Appareo Systems has responded to this in-flight technology gap by developing the ALERTS (Aircraft Logging and Event Recording for Training and Safety) Vision 1000 system. With its focus on developing low-cost avionics solutions, Appareo wanted ALERTS to provide pilots with 3-D cockpit imaging and analysis and FDM at a fraction of the cost of existing cockpit solutions. Eurocopter is a division of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), a leading manufacturer of civil and parapublic helicopters.
Analog Devices' high performance iMEMS® angular rate gyroscope technology made it possible for Appareo to meet their functional design objectives creating a uniquely lightweight device capable of tracking critical aircraft positioning while in-flight, and to capture data for post-flight analysis. The resulting size and exceptional performance of the ALERTS Vision 1000 system was recognized as being so transformative, Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine recognized it in 2007 with Product Breakthrough of the Year award.
Appareo Systems attributes the success of the ALERTS product to the integration of lightweight, low cost, high performance components like ADI's iMEMS gyroscope which enabled the final product to be produced as a cost-competitive, compact, full-featured device that meets rigorous aviation industry standards.
Driven by the high performance ADI iMEMS gyroscope, the ALERTS Vision 1000 system delivers highly reliable tracking of an aircraft's positioning, including inertial and position information such as yaw, pitch and roll. The palm-sized device, weighing-in at less than 300 grams, collects over fourteen separate flight data parameters including latitude, longitude, altitude, ground and vertical speed, heading, pitch and roll attitude, and normal, longitudinal and lateral acceleration. With lightweight components, the ALERTS unit is easily mounted in the cockpit and requires only 28 DC volts and ground for power, in contrast to traditional heavy "black box" systems which often require extensive avionic system integration. All flight data and imagery are protected by a crash-hardened memory module to ensure crucial flight data is retrievable in the event of a crash investigation.
Throughout the flight, the ALERTS Vision 1000 uniquely combines flight data capture with visual cockpit recordings of instrument panels and flight controls, giving pilots multi-faceted feedback to assess performance and, for safety purposes, compliance with standard operating procedures. Fully integrated with Appareo's ALERTS data management system, all flight data is transferred for analysis from a removable secure digital (SD) card to Appareo's management and visualization software package. Inertial data provided by the iMEMS gyroscope, located in the systems' IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), is visually represented in Appareo's 3-D visualization software, AS Flight Analysis.
iMEMS® Gyroscope Single Chip Solution
Optimized for critical, compact applications, the surface micro-machined iMEMS ADXRS6xx gyroscope family includes high performance, low power angular rate sensors (gyroscopes) with integrated electronics on a single chip. With an under 0.15 cc footprint and weighing less than 0.5 grams, the iMEMS gyroscopes occupy a minimal amount of physical design space while contributing a very accurate Z-axis (yaw rate) gyro performance. To accommodate demanding environments such as avionics, these MEMS gyros provide high shock survivability and operate at temperatures of up to 105˚ C.
As a key technology enabler behind the ALERTS Vision 1000 system, this high performance, Analog Devices gyroscope has made FDM technology accessible to a new class of avionics aircraft. The result brings a new level of safety and training to pilots and avionics fleet operators worldwide. Initially, the system will be deployed in helicopters to capture and analyze large volumes of flight data for Appareo's clients in the oil and natural gas industries, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) operators, and the United States military, all of whom benefit from significantly improved flight data monitoring.