Table of Contents
•The rise of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is shaking the aviation industry, including helicopters. Recent research programs in North America and Europe have been looking at integrating unmanned aerial technology with existing helicopter capabilities, hence developing a manned/unmanned capable platform, also called an Optionally Piloted Helicopter (OPH).
•Presently restricted to a test-bed status, why should the helicopter industry consider investing in optionally piloted aircraft? OPH first trials, including operational deployments of certain platforms, have successfully demonstrated extended mission capability and reduced operating costs when flown in segregated airspaces, offering increased flexibility with a safety pilot on-board in non-segregated zones.
•Such performance, combined with better safety record prospects, will potentially offer an attractive solution to cost-conscious helicopter operators across military and civil markets. Therefore, OPHs could soon evolve from test platforms towards low levels of production and then to higher levels adoption.
•However, several barriers prevent such adoption. As a matter of fact, OPHs are facing similar challenges as UAS, despite offering different operational benefits. Regulations, ‘Sense and Avoid’ technology, and endurance/payload trade-offs are hindering OPH market entry in the coming years. Nonetheless, OPHs are poised to grow as they will pave the way towards complete UAS adoption.
•Optionally Piloted Helicopter:
•An aircraft that is integrated with UAS technology and still retains the capability of being flown by an on-board pilot using conventional control methods.
•Current UAS technology development projects include modifying manned aircraft. Today’s advanced technology in control systems and software permits modifications to traditional flight controls that enable command of the aircraft to be affected from outside the cockpit. Control can be affected through a data link or pre-programmed into the aircraft’s autopilot/flight management system. Airworthiness Certification Of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft
•US Department of Transportation,
•Federal Aviation Administration,
•Section 3, 3-9
•Appendix F, -F1
What does OPH bring to capability and operational flexibility?
What are the key roles and missions for OPH platforms?
What are the main OPH programs and the capability gaps within these programs?
Is there any market opportunity; where are the market opportunities?
How big is the market adoption rate and timescale?
What are the cost/performance implications for OPH compared to conventional helicopters and RUAVs*?
Who are the leading stakeholders in these programs?
What will be the impact on the helicopter industry?
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