A helicopter load sensor to be launched at Helitech marries GPS (global positioning system) track guidance with load sensing and a host of other intelligent functions to automatically optimise complex operations such as spraying and multiple random load billing.
Incredibly the HeliNav-LoadMaster sensor is completely autonomous with its own on-board display and computer. This makes it independent of the host helicopter’s systems. It also means it can be swapped from one craft to another in seconds, allowing HeliNav-LoadMaster to be shared around a fleet of aircraft. Multiple load sensors can be used simultaneously using the same display.
“This is a major step forward for commercial helicopter operators, who can now maximise the profitability of their flying hours,” says Bryan Lonsdale Managing Director of Sensor Technology in Banbury. “Looking at a simple example, lifting stone from a quarry to a hillside to lay as a path; currently it is difficult to know the exact weight of each load and the total distance flown during the day. HeliNav-LoadMaster, keeps exact records, accurate to the kilogramme and metre, so you just download the data and invoice the customer.”
Other examples include crop spraying and water bombing. With multiple flights needed, HeliNav LoadMaster can ensure that the second drop starts exactly where the first finished. This guarantees even coverage and efficient use of sprays etc. Significantly as the bucket empties flow will naturally slow; HeliNav-LoadMaster can compensate for this by gradually opening the release valve in proportion to the weight of remaining spray. Also the GPS can be used, in conjunction with the standard SHAPE files, to avoid houses, streams, lakes roads, etc.
The HeliNav LoadMaster sensor, which is available in ranges from 1.5 tonnes to 10 tonnes, communicates its information to the helicopter pilot via a radio link working on an unlicensed international frequency. A full colour touch screen is mounted in the cockpit. With both Windows and LabView software embedded in the unit, operation is not only simple, it is also so familiar to modern pilots that training is not needed.
“Put simply HeliNav-LoadMaster takes the guesswork out of commercial operations. You get an accurate record, against which you can charge exactly,” says Bryan.
There are other ways in which HeliNav LoadMaster can be helpful. For instance, a remote monitor can be used by ground crew to check and double check loads. And because the unit is simply slung under the aircraft, it is possible to have a single one for use with a fleet of three, four or more operational helicopters.
“I think we are on the cusp of a step change in the way in which helicopter-based businesses operate,” says Bryan. “Billing can now be absolutely accurate, with digital records produced instantly and emailed off to the customer. There will be no room to quibble and no chance to delay payment, so relationships can be conducted on a thoroughly professional basis.”