General Atomics Developing Automated Tasking of ISR Platforms with Metis Application

June 24th, 2020   •   Comments Off on General Atomics Developing Automated Tasking of ISR Platforms with Metis Application   
General Atomics Developing Automated Tasking of ISR Platforms with Metis Application

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc. is developing its Metis application for automated tasking of ISR aircraft. Photo: GA-ASI 

General Atomics is developing an automated tasking of military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft using the company’s Metis application.

Metis is a map-based interface that enables a pre-approved Metis user to request ISR data from a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. has worked with the California-based UAS Consulting Group, LLC and the Alabama-based Trideum on Project Heresy, which includes multi-mission control (MMC) software to allow the simultaneous control of six drones. Now, they have introduced Metis into their portfolio of RPA applications.

“Our Heresy suite of capabilities continues to develop with new technologies that reduce manpower requirements throughout the ISR lifecycle,” a representative for GA-ASI wrote in response to questions from Avionics International. “We are currently developing a new automated method to allocate ISR platforms to tasking in our Metis application, and we are expanding our AutoPED capability to perform multi-intelligence correlation and utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically detect unusual behaviors in the maritime domain.”

Last August, GA-ASI said that it demonstrated its MMC and Metis capabilities during live flights using company-owned MQ-9 Block 1 Reaper and MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drones. Those MMC and METIS flights demonstrated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7, according to GA-ASI. The system allows a quick mission transition of drones for strike or ISR, the company said.

GA-ASI said that it uses multicore processors in its autonomy work to handle the computer demands of artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

“We use these on the ground to train and test the various AI models that we develop, and we are integrating them on-board our aircraft to employ the AI on the tactical edge,” according to GA-ASI.

General Atomics also said that it sees an expansion of the role of the company’s Gray Eagle-Extended Range (GE-ER) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

“General Atomics anticipates the role of the GE-ER to expand as the Army develops the payloads to enable longer range detection, identification, location and reporting of targets in both its role as an intelligence platform and as a reconnaissance asset,” the company said.  “GE-ER with MDO [multi-domain operations] capabilities is designed to evolve with the needs of the Army to continue to support and complement FVL platforms and other [Army] Futures Command concepts.”

First flown in 2013, GE-ER has an endurance of 42 hours, compared to an advertised endurance of 25 hours for the standard MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and features a maximum gross takeoff weight of 4,200 pounds and a 180 horsepower engine, versus a maximum gross takeoff weight of 3,600 pounds and a 160 horsepower engine on the conventional Gray Eagle. GA-ASI said that GE-ER doubles endurance and range of the standard Gray Eagle and can carry 1,350 pounds of fuel – 900 internally and 450 externally, compared to 600 pounds of fuel carrying capacity on the conventional Gray Eagle.

GE-ER “also comes with upgrades to communications, engine and datalinks,” GA-ASI said. “Designed and equipped to meet FVL’s Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA), these enhancements increase the survivability of the aircraft, as well as improve its ability to operate in a GPS and SATCOM denied environment.”

“The open architecture allows for rapid, low-cost, low-risk integration of advanced payloads that allow the GE-ER for MDO to operate as a stand-off asset with stand-in capabilities to shape the battlefield in unprecedented ways,” according to GA-ASI. “These capabilities and concepts of operation were proven highly effective in Army models and simulations and live tests against a simulated Integrated Air Defense System (IADS) threat. In each test, the MDO-equipped GE-ER not only survived throughout the fight, it contributed significantly to the effectiveness of Enhanced Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) Long-Range Precision Fires.”



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Airlines, Satellite, and Tech Leaders Convene for 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats

June 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Airlines, Satellite, and Tech Leaders Convene for 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats   
Airlines, Satellite, and Tech Leaders Convene for 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats

The antenna ThinKom supplies for Gogo’s 2Ku system, on display at its 2019 Global Connected Aircraft Summit booth. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Summit is postponed until June 2021, however, the 2020 online “Cabin Chats” will occur in its place, June 22-26, 2020, with 1-1.5 hour presentations, panels, roundtables and networking each day.

Next week, we bring you another virtual event as we look at one of the more impacted and interesting markets in this area – connected aviation. Our Global Connected Aircraft Summit (GCAS) has been going for seven years and has offered a unique platform for airlines, business jet operators, satellite players, as well as solutions providers, opportunities to network and talk about the connected aircraft of the future. This year’s show was meant to take place in Denver, Colorado, but sadly had to be postponed until June next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

As we all know, aviation has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. Air travel has ground to halt, and there have been mass layoffs. For satellite players, mobility and In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) has long been seen as one of the growth markets with players such as SES, Viasat, Intelsat, Inmarsa(among others) all looking to make an impact in this market. A number of antenna players have also been aggressively targeting this market.

So, what happens next? Our virtual Global Connected Aircraft Summit from June 22-26 will feature a series of sessions titled “Cabin Chats,” where we dig deeper into what is next in this market. This event is a must-attend for anyone working in connected aviation, and 600 people have already signed up.

Our opening technology roundtable on Monday is worthy of the price of admission alone. We have top airline executives, Norm Haughton of Air Canada, Babar Rahman of Qatar Airways, and Azman Ahmad of Saudia on a panel with executives from SmartSky Networks, Collins Aerospace and Honeywell talking about how the technology players can help airlines return to health. It will be a vibrant, lively discussion and one of the first times that key airline IFC executives have discussed the future of IFC in such a setting with key technology players.

We also have some great individual presentations and keynotes. The event will kick off on Monday with two Frost & Sullivan analysts, Timothy Kuder and Jonathan Norman, discussing the future of aviation with a deep analysis of the commercial aerospace market. On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) during a discussion that could give us a window into the future of aviation.

We are also delighted to bring Microsoft Azure CTO Bill Chappell to share Microsoft’s view of the connected aviation future and what it can bring to this sector. Chappell will be speaking on Thursday and it will be fascinating to hear Microsoft’s view of this sector and what it can do to aid airlines. His speech will precede a panel discussion on artificial intelligence, featuring experts from Searidge Technologies and Daedalean.

On Friday, we have executives from Honeywell Aerospace and Alaska Airlines talk about the operations side of things and how connectivity can make a difference. Any improvements, whether in fuel efficiency, ground operations management, or aircraft scheduling are more vital than ever as airlines have to become even more. This will be a great way to round out the event.

The event, similar to our recent virtual CyberSat week runs over five days with short, sharp bursts of content. It will be a fantastic event, with great networking as well as an opportunity to talk directly to some of the key players in the market. We also know that many airlines will be attending the event, as they look for insights and intelligence to get onto the road to recovery. For satellite players, it is an opportunity to talk directly to some of key customers and gain insights into what is still seen as a major market.  There’s still time to register.

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Gulfstream Ready to End G550 Production, Final Delivery in 2021

June 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Gulfstream Ready to End G550 Production, Final Delivery in 2021   
Gulfstream Ready to End G550 Production, Final Delivery in 2021

Gulfstream has sold the last commercially available G550, signaling an end to production of the ultra-long range jet. Photo: Gulfstream

Gulfstream is ready to cease production of the G550, nearly 20 years after the large cabin jet program was first announced by the Savannah, Georgia-based business jet manufacturer.

The final G550 delivery is scheduled for next year, 18 years after the first one entered into passenger carrying service.

“With more than 600 in service, the G550 has earned its place as a leader in business aviation. Its technological innovations and safety enhancements earned the G550 development team the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy in 2003. While manufacturing of the G550 will end, our industry-leading support of the aircraft will continue,” Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream said in a statement confirming the end of G550 production.

G550 was the first Gulfstream jet to feature the PlaneView integrated avionics flight deck with synthetic vision, enhanced vision via infrared camera and a head-up display provided by Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics suite. It was one of the first business jets manufactured by Gulfstream to feature a cockpit where pilots started using electronic displays and cursor control devices in place of traditional dials, knobs and switches.

Gulfstream’s G550 was the first business jet to feature the company’s PlaneView flight deck, supplied by Honeywell Aerospace’s Primus Epic Avionics. One of the first business jets where pilots started using electronic displays and cursor controls. Photo: Gulfstream

Gulfstream has positioned the G550 as a flexible aircraft, because of its range and and ability to operate at up to 51,000 feet. Over its time in-service, the aircraft has achieved a total of 55 speed records, according to Gulfstream. In 2018, Gulfstream one of its most uniquely modified special missions versions of the G550 to the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center, the industry’s first such aircraft to feature a patient bed that gives medical staff 360-degree in-flight patient access.

A cease to production of the G550 comes just eight months after Gulfstream introduced its new G700 business jet at the 2019 NBAA Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (BACE), which completed its first flight in February and added a second and third test aircraft to the certification program last month. On May 4, Gulfstream announced workforce reductions in a cost-cutting effort to address challenges it has encountered as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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FAA to Hire More Data Scientists, Software Engineers Under 737 MAX Certification Reform

June 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on FAA to Hire More Data Scientists, Software Engineers Under 737 MAX Certification Reform   
FAA to Hire More Data Scientists, Software Engineers Under 737 MAX Certification Reform

There is still no clear timeline on when Boeing’s 737 MAX will return to passenger carrying service, as lawmakers learned during a June 18 hearing with FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson. Pictured here is the first 737 MAX for SCAT Airlines delivered to carrier in March 2018. Photo: Boeing.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will hire more software and systems engineers, human factors experts and other technological subject matter experts as a way of improving how the agency certifies increasingly complex avionics and other systems into the future, after a review of how the 737 MAX was certified showed the need for more personnel with new skill sets.

Boeing resumed 737 MAX production on May 27, although the aircraft remains grounded with a return to commercial service still uncertain. FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson discussed changes the agency plans to make to its process for certifying complex flight control and other aircraft systems, as well as the way it will assess such technology, during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on Wednesday.

“Our aviation safety organization has a 10-year workforce plan. We’re in the process of reviewing our needs and we will have a focus on human factors experts, systems engineers, software engineers, data scientists so we can stay ahead of new technologies as they’re introduced,” Dickson said.

Dickson’s comments show swift action by the agency to add experts with newer technological skill sets, a key recommendation featured in the January report published by the independent special committee tasked with reviewing the certification process followed by the FAA and Boeing for the 737 MAX program.  The report recommended a transformation of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service (AIR), to include hiring personnel with backgrounds in data analytics, systems engineering, operations research and program management to keep pace with the growth in complexity of new certification projects.

In February, the FAA published its 2021 budget request, $17.5 billion, including $10 million assigned to adding 50 new technical employees. This would be the first phase of an increased hiring effort, as the agency actually expects to need a total of 236 new safety critical and safety technical positions.

The FAA is also offering hiring incentives for operations aviation safety inspectors and “mission critical positions during COVID-19” right now.

“We have plans to recruit system safety engineers, software engineers, as well as additional human factors experts,” Dickson said.

There will also be increased coordination between the FAA’s flight standards division and AIR in future certification projects. Another change from the agency is a focus on integrating the FAA’s aircraft evaluation group pilots into the overall certification process earlier. Pilots from the evaluation group are to start receiving more training on system safety assessments and certification procedures so that they have more visibility over the type of issues maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) presented to Ethiopian and Lion Air pilots.

FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson discussed changes the agency will make to the way it certifies complex aircraft systems in the future during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, June 17. Photo: C-Span

Overall, changes to the certification and safety assessment processes are also designed to allow the FAA and manufacturers to produce certification data and criteria in under more holistic integrated aircraft systems approach, rather than the independent view that has been used in the past.

“Bolstering our human factors expertise, so there is a workforce component, in addition to working with academia and NASA on these issues, involving our pilots and our flight standards group, aircraft evaluation group into the cert process at an earlier and more integrated point, in the process will allow us to take a more holistic view of the role of the human in aircraft design,” Dickson said.

There was also some discussion during the hearing about the return of the 737 MAX to passenger carrying service, which the FAA chief repeatedly told administrators does not have a timeline, but will rely on the agency’s determination of whether the software updates introduced by Boeing last year address known issues with the MCAS system. In April, Avionics learned that the re-certification program for the MAX was waiting on a certification flight and a software validation effort associated with a modification to the MAX’s flight control computer that is not associated with MCAS.

Two features involving the computer’s microprocessor and autopilot engagement are the focus of the software validation effort. COVID-19 has not had an impact on the ability of regulators to review the software modification or pilots to test fly the MAX, however Dickson told the committee that the review continues not only because of the MCAS system, but because Boeing is essentially modifying the entire flight control system.

“There’s much more redundancy, the flight control computers in pitch compare their signals dynamically that’s an extremely ambitious project, as we have moved forward when you make a system like that more robust what happens is it implicates interdependences with other sub systems on the aircraft that have to be taken into account,” Dickson said. “We’ve moved forward diligently and affordably and have maintained we will issue the airworthiness certs ourselves, that’s why this has been such a journey we’ve been on.”

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Do Safety Regulators Want Parachutes On Passenger Air Taxis?

June 18th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Do Safety Regulators Want Parachutes On Passenger Air Taxis?   
Do Safety Regulators Want Parachutes On Passenger Air Taxis?


EASA’s regulatory approach to air taxis all but precludes the use of non-steerable parachutes. Is that the best approach, and will other regulators follow suit? Photo: Vertical Aerospace’s Seraph.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has told a major air taxi manufacturer that it would be penalized for including a non-steerable ballistic parachute in their design, according to Larry Williams, CEO of Aviation Safety Resources, a manufacturer of recovery systems working with clients in the air taxi space.

In the document EASA published May 25 detailing the means by which air taxi manufacturers can achieve type certification for their aircraft, the regulatory agency makes clear it does not view non-steerable parachutes as helpful in achieving safety standards because they do not enable a controlled emergency landing.

“A controlled emergency landing should be performed under control; in particular it should be possible to steer the aircraft towards a touchdown area with the remaining lift/thrust units,” the means-of-compliance document states. “Therefore this objective cannot be met by the use of non-steerable parachutes.”

A catastrophic failure event due to aircraft system failure must have a probability of occurrence lower than one in 10-9 — or one in a billion — for person-carrying air taxis flying above populated areas, according to the final page of the special condition-VTOL published by EASA in July 2019.

For a failure condition to be classified below ‘catastrophic,’ EASA will require air taxis to be able to perform a controlled emergency landing. In line with this policy, EASA has told a major European manufacturer that the deployment of a non-steerable recovery system will be considered a catastrophic failure event, according to Williams, whose company manufactures recovery systems for a wide variety of aircraft.

“[The company] had decided internally that they wanted to have a recovery system onboard the vehicle,” Williams told Avionics. “As they prepared their certification plan for EASA, when it came to the recovery system, EASA has apparently taken this position that not only would they not be allowed to have any credit for having a recovery system on board, but in fact there was a negative, basically a penalty, if they put a recovery system on board.”

“It is unconscionable to me that EASA would take a position that would discourage the inclusion of any safety system that provides an advanced level of safety … in particular in this VTOL environment, you don’t have any forward speed to give you options if something devastating were to happen,” Williams said, adding that his company is in conversations with multiple other European air taxi developers interested in putting a recovery system on their vehicle.

Reached for comment, EASA did not address conversations with specific manufacturers, but confirmed that non-steerable parachutes do not meet its requirements for safe flight conditions.

Kentucky-based Aviation Safety Resources is developing ballistic parachutes for use in aircraft ranging from 60 lbs to 12,000 lbs. (ASR)

“Controllability and maneuverability are considered basic elements in the protection of those on board or on the ground,” a representative for EASA told Avionics. “This needs to be ensured by basic system design. Any further capability could be demonstrated in addition.”

With the Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada have not yet issued rulings on the inclusion of parachutes in air taxi designs, developers are divided on whether to include them. As of 2018, Joby Aviation said their design included a parachute, as did Airbus’ Vahana demonstrator. Volocopter’s VoloCity and Bell’s Nexus 4EX do not.

Uber’s Mark Moore told Avionics last year he encourages vehicle partners — of which there are eight announced to date — to consider ballistic parachutes as part of a multi-layered safety approach.

“In fact, we’re actively working with industry and the FAA for manufacturers to receive certification credit for advanced safety systems,” Moore said at the time.

EASA’s approach is to focus on meeting higher safety standards for air taxis, equivalent with commercial airliners. Though a non-steerable ballistic parachute like the one developed by Aviation Safety Resources could significantly reduce the speed and energy of a malfunctioning aircraft, even at altitudes as low as 100 feet, it will still produce an uncontrolled emergency landing.

The regulatory agency is open to considering steerable parachutes, which Williams said his company plans to develop as a second-generation version of its current ballistic offering for VTOL and experimental aircraft. More clarity from EASA and other regulators may be needed, however, on what level of mobility must be supplied in order for a recovery system to be considered “steerable.”

“Active systems could also be acceptable if their reliability is commensurate with their criticality,” EASA’s SC-VTOL means-of-compliance document states. “The operational context in which the aircraft is certified should be taken into account when defining the controlled emergency landing: The capability to steer the aircraft should be evaluated based on the gliding distance.”

Jaunt Air Mobility’s air taxi design, a combination fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter, uses proprietary slowed-rotor technology acquired from Carter Aviation to reduce reliance on the aircraft’s main rotor, resulting in significant noise and safety benefits — and no need for a parachute, according to the company.

“I personally believe EASA is taking the correct approach relative to requiring that the aircraft have a fundamental level of safety equivalent to 10-9 — any other alternative means, like ballistic chutes, don’t offer a level of safety that can be inherently designed into the aircraft,” said Martin Peryea, chief technology officer for Jaunt, told Avionics.

Peryea, who previously spent 33 years at Bell including as chief engineer on the company’s 525 program, explained Jaunt’s approach results in an aircraft with no height/velocity restrictions for successful autorotation, unlike most helicopters.

“No matter where we are in our flight path — takeoff, descent, or cruise — we always make sure we have enough stored energy in the rotor where you could actually fly the aircraft without electric propulsion power,” Peryea said. “If you’re 1,000 feet above the ground in our aircraft, you have about 5 square miles of area in which you could glide down in a controllable manner and land. And you can land at zero forward velocity, unlike a helicopter, which comes down at a relatively high forward airspeed.”

Jaunt and over 250 other air taxi projects are part of a technological revolution in the labs and hangars of aerospace companies around the world, with billions invested in this new potential system of aerial transportation and plans by Uber to commercialize it as soon as 2023.

Meanwhile, the industry is facing two of its most challenging public-facing crises since the dawn of the jet age. Between the highly-public investigation of the twin Boeing 737 Max crashes last year and the aircraft’s certification process, as well as concerns around travel in confined spaces amidst a pandemic, it isn’t clear what measures airlines and regulators will have to take to regain the public trust they had just two years ago — or if that will even be possible.

For air taxis to gain public approval amidst this environment of increased scrutiny, regulators and manufacturers will have to convince the public they are safe — both for passengers and those on the ground.

And safety concerns much more than aircraft system failures, which account for a small percentage of accidents in various operational contexts. More than 70 percent of fatal accidents are attributed to operator error, as Jacek Kawecki, vehicle components lead at Uber Elevate, told Avionics earlier this year.

Uber’s approach to air taxi safety emphasizes reducing the various types of operator error, including through much greater use of autonomy than normally seen in helicopter operations. Much like self-driving cars, air taxi operators will need to convince regulators and the public that removing the human from the loop can improve safety.

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan found nearly 80 percent of respondents believe it to be “extremely or very important” for air taxis to have parachutes.

That statistic may be more telling of public ignorance to aerospace safety and awareness of parachutes than the role they should play in air taxi safety — though their use has saved hundreds of lives in general aviation — but it nevertheless reveals the difficult road ahead for air taxi enthusiasts to convince the public this technology is ready for prime-time.

And when the first high-profile accident occurs, with footage of a multi-rotor aircraft falling out of the sky in a populated environment — the entire industry may wish it had a parachute.

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Former Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO to Take Lead at GE Aviation

June 17th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Former Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO to Take Lead at GE Aviation   
Former Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO to Take Lead at GE Aviation

Former Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO John Slattery is taking over as president and CEO of GE Aviation for David Joyce, pictured here, who is retiring after 40 years with the company. Photo: GE Aviation

On the same day Embraer took steps to reintegrate its commercial aviation business after plans to merge with Boeing fell through, John Slattery, former CEO of the Brazilian airplane maker’s commercial division, is leaving to take over as president and CEO of GE Aviation.

In April, Boeing terminated an agreement that would have purchased 80 percent of Embraer’s commercial aircraft business, a percentage that will now be reintegrated with the rest of the company. Along with the restructuring, Arjan Meier will take over as president and CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation for Slattery immediately.

The 47-year old Meier previously had served as chief commercial officer of Embraer Commercial Aviation since January 2017, after joining the company a year earlier as the vice president of commercial aviation for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. Prior to joining Embraer, he worked in executive roles with the KLM group.

“He has the energy, international experience, and skillset to lead our commercial aviation business at this unique moment,” Embraer CEO Francisco Gomes Neto said.

Embraer reported a 20 percent decline in first quarter net revenues compared to the same period a year ago, due to a significant drop in the number of commercial aircraft deliveries. Commercial aviation revenues halved from $281 million last year to $140 million, while defense revenues fell from $179 million last year to $149 million this year, and business jet revenues grew from $117 million last year to $130 million this year.

Despite reintegrating the commercial aircraft business into the rest of the company, Neto confirmed during the first quarter earnings call that Embraer is looking for new partners to replace Boeing in what would have created a $4.2 billion joint venture for the development of commercial aircraft and sales of the Embraer-developed C-390 multi-mission medium cargo and transport plane. Embraer is still undergoing arbitration with Boeing over the cancelled agreement.

Slattery is taking over leadership for GE Aviation after David Joyce, vice chair of GE and president and CEO of GE Aviation, announced his retirement after 40 years with the company. Joyce helped GE turn aviation into one of its leading verticals, “doubling its revenue from $16.5 billion to $33 billion, growing total backlog from $26 billion to more than $270 billion, and industrializing advanced technologies across both commercial and military applications,” according to GE Aviation.

The former Embraer executive is to start the new position on July 13 and will assume the role of president and CEO beginning Sept. 1, 2020. Joyce will continue to serve as a strategic advisor through 2021.

“I have long considered GE Aviation to be the leading aviation franchise in the world, and I am humbled to take the helm from David and lead this talented team forward,” Slattery said. “This is a time of unprecedented change in the aerospace industry yet also an opportunity to reimagine the future of flight and how we can best serve our customers.”

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Should Airlines Standardize Pre-flight Testing for COVID-19?

June 17th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Should Airlines Standardize Pre-flight Testing for COVID-19?   
Should Airlines Standardize Pre-flight Testing for COVID-19?

IATA is advocating the use of saliva swabs for pre-flight testing of passengers for COVID-19. Airports and airlines are trying different approaches to testing right now, including the use of thermal image screening at Heathrow International Airport, pictured here. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Airlines are slowly starting to operate more flights as regulators in different regions of the world begin to relax travel restrictions and introduce new guidelines. But do operators need a standardized approach to pre-flight COVID-19 testing to make the process more efficient and help restore confidence in passengers that they can safely fly during the pandemic?

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) daily publishing of the number of travelers moving through U.S. airports this year compared to 2019 hit a COVID-19 pandemic high on June 14, with 544,046 passengers making their way to airplane — still a ways off from the more than 2 million passengers recorded on the same day a year ago, but a vast improvement from the pandemic low of just under 88,000 recorded on Apr. 14. On Monday, most countries in Europe followed the European Union’s guidelines for reopening borders to inter-European travel, with plans to reopen to international travel at a later date.

EasyJet and Lufthansa-owned Brussels Airlines restarted operations this week as European internal borders reopened. Others including Air France, British Airways and Wizz Air are also increasing the number of flights they operate. Regulators in China and the U.S. have also reached a mutual agreement to allow airlines such as Delta and United to start resuming flights to the region.

But as more travelers start to fill airport lounges and aircraft cabins, the industry is still trying to figure out the best method for testing passengers prior to getting onboard. On Tuesday June 16, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published new guidance on COVID-19 testing for air travel, with the agency advocating for the use of tests that are accurate, fast and can be performed hundreds of times per hour at busy airports.

Dr. David Powell, medical advisor for IATA, provided some updates on how airlines can achieve their recommended guidelines for COVID-19 testing moving forward during the organization’s weekly pandemic media briefing.

United Airlines added a self-assessment to its pre-flight boarding process within its mobile app. Photo: United Airlines

“We know that we’ve been looking at testing to facilitate air transport really in two areas. One is can we make the fight itself self safer by testing prior to flight and the second area is can we use testing to reduce the chance of importing somebody whose infectious on an international flight,” Powell said.

Other considerations for airlines include who will administer the test and verify the results, considering most airlines do not have medical experts on staff and readily available to perform such testing at airports. IATA believes the verification and testing should be managed by a public health agency, therapeutic agency or scientific agency.

Some airlines and airports have already adopted their own measures for testing for COVID-19 related symptoms, in place of the type of testing outlined by Powell. Heathrow Airport is actively trialing the use of UV sanitation, facial recognition thermal screening technology and contactless security procedures. In Terminal 2, the airport is using camera detection systems that are capable of monitoring the temperatures of multiple people as they move through the airport.

Emirates, in partnership with the Dubai Health Authority, has been performing COVID-19 blood testing on certain flights at Dubai Airport, while Etihad Airways partnered with Elenium Automation to trial new technology which allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travelers with medical conditions, potentially including the early stages of COVID-19. United Airlines has integrated a new “Ready-to-fly” checklist in its mobile application, that features a “health self-assessment” as part of its check-in process.

IATA’s Powell describes the Real-time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) as the “gold standard” he is recommending for airlines to adopt in a way that is administered by medical experts. The current standard process for a PCR test involves a swab going through the nose and down into the back of the throat, although Powell believes less invasive versions are becoming available that could be administered by airlines.

“There are some tests being developed which will hopefully be able to use a saliva sample instead, because that’s much easier, you can put a little swab in the mouth and take it out again and you also don’t need a trained health care worker to administer that test,” Powell said.

When asked whether the development of an industry-wide pre-flight testing standard could help, Powell explained the positives and negatives associated with developing such a standard.

“It’s certainly likely that widespread testing would increase [passenger] confidence, but it comes at a cost, in terms of the price, the delay, imperfect reliability and the discomfort of it all. Nothing in COVID-19 is perfect,” he said.

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NTSB Calls on OEMs to Equip Turbine Helicopters with Flight Data, Image Recorders

June 17th, 2020   •   Comments Off on NTSB Calls on OEMs to Equip Turbine Helicopters with Flight Data, Image Recorders   
NTSB Calls on OEMs to Equip Turbine Helicopters with Flight Data, Image Recorders

The BendixKing AeroCorder 100 Flight Data Recorder weighs 4.5 pounds and is an option for use on helicopters. Photo: BendixKing

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on helicopter builders to equip turbine-powered rotorcraft with crash-resistant flight data recorders and crash-protected image recorders to provide data, audio and images to improve crash investigations.

In a safety recommendation report issued on June 2, the NTSB asked Airbus Helicopters, Bell, Leonardo, MD Helicopters, Robinson Helicopter Company, and Sikorsky to embed such systems on their helicopters.

The NTSB said that “the Federal Aviation Administration has not implemented a series of NTSB recommendations made in 2013 and 2015.”

“Those recommendations were issued after NTSB investigators found the lack of recorded data hindered their understanding of several crashes that could have serious flight safety implications,” according to the NTSB.

The NTSB’s call follows an urging by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last June for all helicopters to be equipped with “black boxes” in the wake of a fatal crash in midtown Manhattan of an Agusta A109E helicopter that did not feature a flight data recorder.

While helicopters meeting specific criteria established by the FAA are required to have crash-resistant systems to record flight data and cockpit audio, none are currently required to have an image recording capability, the NTSB said.

Despite the lack of action from the FAA, some helicopter operators have equipped their aircraft with recording systems, including image recording capability, even though they are not required to do so.

“The more information we have, the better we can understand not only the circumstances of a crash, but what can be done to prevent future accidents,” Dana Schulze, the director of the NTSB Office of Aviation Safety, said in a statement. “We are asking that currently available recording technology be put to use in a way that will improve aviation safety.”

The NTSB cited seven helicopter investigations between 2011 and 2017 in which the lack of access to recorded data impeded their ability to identify and address potential safety issues.

Although the FAA has declined to mandate recorders on those helicopters not already required to have them, the agency said that it has encouraged operators since 2005 to install the equipment on a voluntary basis.  For its part, however, the NTSB said that turbine-powered helicopters in 86 percent of 185 accidents that NTSB investigated between 2005 and 2017 had no recording equipment installed and that the FAA actions have thus been ineffective.

In addition to asking manufacturers to install crash-resistant recorders on newly built helicopters, the NTSB also asked them to provide a means to retrofit their helicopters with crash-resistant systems capable of recording flight data, cockpit audio and images on their helicopters not already so equipped.

The post NTSB Calls on OEMs to Equip Turbine Helicopters with Flight Data, Image Recorders appeared first on Avionics.

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Honeywell Creates New Business Unit for Drones and Urban Air Mobility

June 16th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Honeywell Creates New Business Unit for Drones and Urban Air Mobility   
Honeywell Creates New Business Unit for Drones and Urban Air Mobility

Honeywell has created a new business unit to provide hardware and software to the drone and urban air mobility industries, an opportunity it believes will represent $120 billion by 2030. (Uber Elevate, design by Corgan)

Honeywell has created a new business unit dedicated to unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM), the company announced, with dedicated engineering and sales resources, valuing the hardware and software market for such systems at $120 billion by 2030.

“Urban Air Mobility and Unmanned Aerial Systems will play an increasing role in the future of aerospace, with potential applications in all-electric urban air taxi vehicles, hybrid-electric unmanned cargo drones, optionally piloted airplanes, delivery drones and everything in between,” said Mike Madsen, president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace.

Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager for the new business unit, said Honeywell expects the hardware and software market for UAM, drone cargo delivery and other drone applications to reach $120 billion by 2030, with Honeywell’s market opportunity about 20 percent of that.

Honeywell UAM will “develop new products and services uniquely for these markets,” according to Honeywell, and act as a systems integrator for existing Honeywell products and services that could be used by the UAS and UAM industries. Offerings will include avionics, electric and hybrid-electric propulsion and thermal management, flight services and ground operations services. The business unit has hundreds of employees with many engineers.

Honeywell’s compact fly-by-wire system, developed with air taxis in mind. (Honeywell)

At last year’s Uber Elevate summit, Honeywell unveiled a compact version of its fly-by-wire system for use on air taxis. The company has been selected to provide various sub-systems to a number of air taxi OEMs, including Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace, Jaunt Air Mobility, Pipistrel and Eviation. Honeywell is also pursuing customers in the drone package delivery industry, though it has not yet announced any relationships.

Honyewell also signed an agreement with Denso to collaborate on electric and hybrid powertrains for urban air mobility aircraft.

In November of last year, Honeywell partnered with and invested in Swiss autonomy startup, with Honeywell Ventures contributing an undisclosed sum to the startup’s $12 million fundraising to date. Honeywell will work with Daedalean to procure the flight testing and data necessary for the company’s rapid development and certification of flight control software, and provide its autopilot solutions for both general aviation and electric vertical takeoff and landing airframes.

“We’re not trying to bet on who’s going to have the best drone,” said Murray Grainger, head of Honeywell Ventures. “We want to sell to everyone’s drones.”

Honeywell Ventures has also invested in California-based AirMap, a leading provider of unmanned traffic management (UTM) and fleet management solutions for enterprise drone use.

The post Honeywell Creates New Business Unit for Drones and Urban Air Mobility appeared first on Avionics.

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Satellite Connectivity to Enable New ’Pop-Up UTM’ Service for Drones

June 13th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Satellite Connectivity to Enable New ’Pop-Up UTM’ Service for Drones   
Satellite Connectivity to Enable New ’Pop-Up UTM’ Service for Drones

A new collaborative partnership will leverage Inmarsat’s L-band connectivity and Altitude Angel’s unmanned traffic management operating system to enable ‘Pop-Up UTM.’ Photo: Altitude Angel

Inmarsat and Altitude Angel are collaborating on a new approach to surveillance that they describe as ‘Pop-Up UTM’ (Unmanned Traffic Management), which could serve as a catalyst for enabling more beyond visual line of sight operations for commercial and civilian drones in the near future.

Initially focusing on emergency services drone operators that need satellite connectivity in human relief or aid related efforts, the concept will primarily leverage Inmarsat’s L-band satellite safety services networks to enable command and control of multiple drones at once. Anthony Spoucer, senior director of UAVs and UTM for Inmarsat, told Avionics that the collaboration is enabled by the use of drones equipped with small L-band antennas that use the same air traffic control frequencies as commercial airliners.

“Two of our partners, Honeywell and Cobham, provide satellite L-band antennas and satcom data units that weigh close to 1 kilogram, and can sit on UAVs using the same network and frequencies for air traffic control that are used by commercial air transport operators. We will then back integrate that position reporting, which runs on our network, into Altitude Angel, so they can then see the position and location of the UAV as well as communicate with the pilot,” Spoucer said.

Once drone operators file their flight plan with Altitude Angel, the flight plan is then submitted to the responsible air navigation service provider (ANSP) for approval. That would provide the type of strategic and tactical de-confliction between drone operators and manned aircraft that is necessary to enable more BVLOS drone operations, Spoucer said. The next steps are to start modifying individual drones with the necessary antennas and satellite data units.

Cobham describes it as UAV 200, one of the antennas referenced by Spoucer, as being capable of delivering Inmarsat Class 4 services, up to 200kbps data and connectivity to enable BVLOS real time visual feedback from video captured by UAVs. The company states that up 1080p HD video can be streamed over Inmarsat’s network using the UAV 200.

Cobham’s UAV 200 antenna can enable L-band connectivity BVLOS drone operations. Photo: Cobham

British commercial drone operators currently use Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM operating system to file flight plans with NATS. Through the NATS Airspace User Portal, commercial drone operators can request permission to fly airspace that is usually restricted, with help from GurdianUTM.

The Pop-Up UTM partnership between the two U.K.-based companies comes several months after the Civil Aviation Authority published its first 11-page BVLOS guidance for obtaining permission to fly in commercial airspace or beyond line of sight of the operator. Current BVLOS flights in U.K. airspace are limited to special exemptions, although the regulator has provided a baseline understanding of what is required to normalize BVLOS in the future.

“From a pop-up UTM perspective, we will start with blue light type services where, for example, you would established controlled airspace around a search and rescue site within a couple hours of notice. Our L-band network has global coverage, so once we have the location, we can work with Altitude Angel to provide the type of surveillance and airspace de-confliction needs necessary,” Spoucer said.

This is the type of surveillance picture provided remotely to drone operators by Altitude Angel. Photo: Altitude Angel

A key goal is to allow multiple emergency service drones to be operated remotely and without the need for ground-based communications infrastructure. Regions where terrestrial communications networks are not accessible are also a target for the new partnership.

Phil Binks, head of air traffic management for Altitude Angel, recently told Avionics that he welcomes the possible introduction of avionics mandates for the commercial drones that are already using their UTM platform.

“The ability to almost instantly ‘pop-up’ safe, secure and fully operational UTM platforms in any environment, at any time, will give first responders, blue light services and aid organizations a valuable new tool that could save countless lives,” Binks said.

Spoucer said that the data and experience from enabling pop-up UTM for emergency services operators will provide an blueprint for leveraging more of their satellite connectivity for commercial drones, a targeted segment of the industry for Inmarsat, in the near future.

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