Honeywell is set to receive initial certification of a combined satellite-based communications and helicopter health and usage monitoring system (HUMS), which will send real-time alerts of exceedances and maintenance issues to ground personnel.

The development, which will be offered initially as an option under a supplemental type certificate on the Sikorsky S-76C++, combines the company’s Zing HUMS and the latest Sky Connect III version of Honeywell’s satcom and aircraft tracking system.

“We hear from operators that anything we can do to automate the large amount of data is a good thing, and to integrate that with Sky Connect to push maintenance alerts, takes that further,” says Rob Richardson, Honeywell marketing and product manager.

“We’re trying to be a pioneer of HUMS in light helicopters, so we’re looking at reducing the cost of the system to between $90,000 and $100,000,” Richardson adds. The cost for larger helicopters such as the Bell 412 could run to around $135,000.

Further off, lower cost or “no cost” options based on cell phone applications also are being evaluated.

“We’re also looking at a 1134 ‘light’ version (of the 1134 HUMS), which would weigh something less than 10 pounds installed,” Richardson says. Despite not monitoring all parameters such a system would record rotor track and balance as well as vibration, he says.

Honeywell demonstrated the integrated system at last week’s Heli-Expo show in Las Vegas using the company’s Eurocopter AS350 test helicopter. On a short flight from McCarran International Airport flown by Honeywell senior pilot Ron Wayman, Aviation Week was shown how simultaneous text and phone messages could be sent to ground operations. Although the testbed is fitted with 24 Zing HUMS sensors, for the purpose of the demonstration an artificial tail rotor exceedance alert was sent using a HUMS demo button. The message, which is transmitted over the Iridium satellite network via e-mail and text, was sent using a “short burst data,” or SBD, message that reduces it to a shortened format.

The flight tracker element of the system meanwhile sent back continuous updates on the helicopter’s position and altitude, which Honeywell says can be useful for verification in the event of noise complaints. The system, which also is attracting the interest of large offshore helicopter operators such as PHI, Bristow and Chevron, is due to begin installation on the first machines around the end of March.