July 15, 2013
After receiving initial FAA certification in March of a system combining satellite-based communications with helicopter health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), Honeywell aims to evolve the capability for inflight broadband connectivity on passenger airliners.
The integrated development blends Honeywell's newly certified Sky Connect Tracker III and Zing HUMS using the Iridium global satellite network, giving helicopter operators an all-in-one system for voice, text and fleet tracking, plus the ability to communicate real-time alerts of helicopter exceedances and maintenance issues to ground personnel.
Carl Esposito, vice president of marketing and product management at Phoenix-based Honeywell, says Sky Connect Tracker III allows pilots to simultaneously send text messages to ground operators while talking on their headsets. It also sends back continuous updates on the helicopter's position and altitude. When integrated with Zing, the system can send automatic, real-time maintenance alerts detected via HUMS to ground personnel, who can call or send back text messages to the aircraft as necessary.
“This gives you real-time health information about the helicopter,” Esposito says. “In the past, you had to wait for the helicopter to land, and then go out and download that information, but with this it's in real time.”
With the integrated system offered as an option under a supplemental type certificate on the Sikorsky S-76C++, Esposito says Honeywell is now exploring operational improvements that could be adapted for use inside the cockpit and beneath the floor boards of commercial and business jets through Inmarsat's new Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network.
“We are looking at onboard data-loading or being able to view the maintenance history of pieces of aircraft equipment,” Esposito said, adding that beyond passenger connectivity, the company sees an opportunity to bring real-time HUMS and tracking services to aircraft operators, airlines and air traffic controllers, including predictive maintenance and better aircraft communications designed to take advantage of Inmarsat's high-speed broadband network. “We want to offer the ability to look at real-time information as to how the aircraft is performing by having much broader connectivity and bandwidth for aircraft diagnostics.”
Esposito says Honeywell's expertise in aircraft subsystems—everything from avionics and navigation to propulsion and mechanical systems—allows the company to take a more comprehensive approach to aeronautical connectivity.