XMA-ROTOR: result of a project in close collaboration between Airbus Helicopters and Safran
Over the past three years, Airbus Helicopters and Safran Data Systems, subsidiary of Safran Electronics & Defense, have worked closely to build on innovation in flight testing for the RACER (Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft) program, a high-speed, high efficiency helicopter demonstrator. It will be equipped with the exclusive HIRIS (Helicopter Innovative Rotating Instrumentation System) “WIRELESS” rotary wing instrumentation data acquisition system. RACER is funded by the European Commission H2020 research program, as part of Clean Sky 2.
Environment around the project: between technological challenges and constraints
The very nature of a technological innovation involves the exploration of extensive unknown terrain, especially on the technical level. The project teams worked in particularly close collaboration and were able to meet many challenges:
- transfer a very large amount of data without any loss with a wireless technology, despite very high rotation speeds and the masking effects generated by the rotation of the blades;
- allow the acquisition of a large variety of data, from most common sources, such as strain gages (quarter, half, full bridge), temperature sensors, accelerometers, but also the latest digital and/or fiber optic sensor technologies;
- synchronize all the data collected on the rotors with the other parameters of the helicopter, with the same level of accuracy as on a wired network;
- configure the system via the wireless link from a simple connection on the Ethernet network;
- provide power supply in the rotor zone: must be provided by wireless technology, without using a battery, and must include a function monitoring the proper functioning of the system.
In addition to meeting these technical challenges, the teams had to deal with various constraints: firstly, environmental constraints, with special emphasis on the vibratory aspects associated with the helicopter; secondly, in terms of installation and mechanical strength, since the system had to be compatible with installation on the rotors and guarantee safe flight; thirdly, it must be possible to install the system on any type of helicopter and aircraft.
The XMA-ROTOR data acquisition system is based on XMA technology, a platform proven by many players in civil and military aeronautics.
The particularity of the XMA ROTOR is that it embeds a hybrid wireless technology combining 2 "wireless" protocols. An additional advantage is that it is equipped with a high-performance inductive power supply system.
This new component completes the already extensive offer of Safran Data Systems in flight testing. For the RACER program, Airbus Helicopters thus benefits from a perfectly homogeneous chain made up of the actual XMA-ROTOR (conditioning and acquisition of data from the HIRIS), MDR (onboard recording and telemetry stream generator), DTRDM (telemetry transmitter), Comtrack (receiving antenna), Cortex RX-1 (telemetry receiver) and GMDR (ground recording and replay equipment).
Successful first test campaign on the H175
The first HIRIS flight tests began in June 2021, onboard an H175 helicopter, at the Airbus site in Marignane. Nearly a year later, with more than 60 hours of flight time, this campaign carried out under real operating conditions allows to highlight the strong points as well as the areas for improvement of our solution, which is now fully operational. This rapid increase in maturity means that the XMA-ROTOR can be deployed for tests on the RACER with a first flight scheduled for late 2022.
“HIRIS is first and foremost a true success story of collaborative work between AIRBUS HELICOPTERS and Safran Data Systems. The results obtained during the 60 hours of flight are very positive and allow to validate the installation of the HIRIS system for the flight of the RACER. The HIRIS system operation is designed so that data users are under the impression that a wire connects the rotating part to the fixed part of the helicopter. HIRIS is a wireless system with the performance of a wired system!” commented Marc SEZNEC, SENIOR EXPERT Flight Test Instrumentation at Airbus Helicopters.
Major international coverage is ensured for the XMA-ROTOR: Safran Data Systems teams have made presentations and demonstrations at numerous trade shows and conferences, including recently at the Vertical Flight Society (May 10-12) in Fort Worth, USA, and the ETTC* (May 10-11) in Nuremberg, Germany.
HIRIS (Helicopter Innovative Rotating Instrumentation System)
- © Airbus Helicoter
- © Safran