Helicopter connectivity is “the wave of the future”, says Michael Suldo, Customer Solutions, Oil, Gas and HEMS, Bell Helicopter Textron.

We’re not just focusing on it because it’s good for Bell Helicopters,” he said, “It’s good for customers and economics; it’s good for safety.”

He explained: “We monitor over 1,000 data points on the helicopter.”

This includes, for example, monitoring 25 vibration sensors to show if there are any abnormal vibrations, and tracking the electric current of every circuit breaker to see whether one is pulling more power than it should. It also includes monitoring flight data from the pilot – such as how fast they’re flying, the altitude, position, etc. as well as all the fluid levels.

Suldo noted that not all the data points have to be transmitted in flight – some can be downloaded on the deck. This saves costs as it is expensive to transmit data during flight.

Actionable insights

The data from each helicopter is compared against all the other helicopters in the fleet “so we know what the standard is”. If there are abnormal readings, alerts will be triggered.

Each component of the helicopter also has an RFID chip – engineers can scan these chips to pull data such as flight hours, etc. They can also leave digital notes via the chip to share information with other colleagues about the component.