AEA: Garmin Introduces GFC 600H Helicopter Autopilot

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Given the flight dynamics, it’s little wonder that helicopter autopilots have been ground upon which engineers fear to tread. But at the Aircraft Electronics Association convention, two companies unveiled rotorcraft autoflight systems, including a start-up called HeliTrak and Garmin International.

See yesterday’s coverage for HeliTrak’s offering. It’s expected to be available in 2019. For its part, Garmin is promising certification for its GFC 600H by later this year and describes the system as flexible enough to integrate with existing avionics or to serve as a standalone autoflight system. It has a full range of modes, including heading, navigation, altitude hold and even approach capability. In case your hovering needs help, the GFC 600H has that too, in the form of hover assist to provide a little friendly nudging to keep the helo positioned.

Like higher end commercial helicopter autoflight systems, the GFC 600H also has stability augmentation. Its version of envelope protection is called H-ESP, meaning the autopilot is capable of control inputs to prevent and recover from upsets. The system inputs commands to the cyclic to protect against roll, pitch and speed exceedances. And like the Garmin autopilots for fixed-wing aircraft, the GFC 600H sports a LVL button for recovery from flight upsets.

The GFC 600H will pair with navigators such as the GTN series, but if buyers want something newer, Garmin is offering a helicopter version of its new TXi series touchscreen displays. The G500H TXi offers similar features to fixed-wing versions but with add-ons unique to helicopters, such as a tail cam, including FLIR input, and WireAware, which plots hazardous cables and wires that are major actors in helicopter accidents. Garmin says G500H approvals will be available soon for several helicopter models.