Prototype Could Enable Next-Gen Helo Capabilities

By Meredith Roaten

Collins Aerospace photo

A new high-powered flight control computer from Collins Aerospace could facilitate emerging technologies for next-generation helicopters.

The Perigon prototype, which is expected to enter qualification testing in 2022, can help reduce pilot workload and enhance situational awareness in degraded environments, said Kim Kinsley, vice president and general manager of environmental and airframe control systems for Collins Aerospace.

The new system has 20 times more computing power than the current line of the company’s machines, a capability enabled by the increased use of multicore processors, she said. The open design of the hardware can host complex software programs including applications for autonomy, fly-by-wire flight controls or weapons management.

“As the aircraft become more complex, the capabilities become more and more complex,” she said in an interview.

She noted that the Army’s future vertical lift program — a new family of rotorcraft and one of the service’s top modernization priorities — plans to incorporate open architecture technology that reduces pilot workload and helps soldiers operate in degraded environments.

Darryl Woods, director and general manager of flight controls for Collins Aerospace, said the computer’s ability to support software with capabilities such as assured position, navigation and timing is attractive to government customers who want to free up pilots’ time.

“The pilots will be in the aircraft, but they can focus on their mission versus worrying about a sandstorm or if there’s a fire or whatever … [is] degrading their vision,” he said.

Additionally, the device can shift into three configurations with varying processing power — simplex, duplex or triplex — he noted.

Being able to adjust the processing power and input and output would enable the military to save weight and space in the aircraft by eliminating unnecessary parts.

“It will maintain a core set of processor cards that the customers can choose from, which will allow us to maintain lower recurring costs and be able to pass that along to our customers,” Woods said.

The three dissimilar processors that make up the computer’s power are its main advantage for autonomous software, he added. If one processor fails, there are others to back it up. Meanwhile, Perigon’s software is continuously conducting system checks to determine which processors are operating optimally.

“Then, we do analysis to try and figure out which one is giving us the right information so that we can make sure the right box is in command of the aircraft,” he said. “We think that that’s what adds to the autonomy world.”

Topics: Air Power

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