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Helicopter Firefighting Rescue Demo

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The second set of flight demonstrations of the 3rd of May consisted on providing a better situational awareness to helicopter rescue crew about the position of ground firefighting brigades. The prototype system, developed within Scenario 5, consists mainly of a ground portable unit given to the fire brigadiers and an airborne display mounted on-board of the helicopter. Using the first Galileo ready smartphone, the exact position of the brigadiers is continuously broadcasted through the mobile data network and then received at the dedicated on-board support system.

During the pre-flight briefing with the pilots and the fire brigade, the Galileo enabled smartphone BQ Aquaris X5 Plus was given to the brigade foreman with the adequate instructions.

The mission started as the helicopter transported the fire brigade to the point of destination, where the brigade grounded and the helicopter started with the firefighting operations. The helicopter crew had on the on-board display the exact position of all fire brigadiers on the ground with respect to the helicopter position. When, after a while, the ground unit signalled for rescue, the helicopter crew knew exactly where they where, and where they had to be rescued. Following the on-board rescue support system, the pilot flew the helicopter to the point of rescue, where the brigade was already waiting.

The come-back from the rescue mission was done through the low-level routes and instrument approach procedures developed within Scenario 3, and already demonstrated this same day.

All flights on the date were also used to demonstrate a first prototype of a management system, developed by PildoLabs under the umbrella of the Civil UAVs Initiative, that shows all units (airborne and on the ground), as well as the airspace structures of interest (routes to the base, segregated areas, etc.), in a single display. This prototype system will be used to support the decision making process of mission managers on the ground and coordinate air traffic on a firefighting mission.

In this flight campaign, the pilots and fire brigades were able to successfully perform a rescue mission in a way they had never experienced. Where people on the ground can suddenly feel trapped and need to be evacuated immediately, voice radio communications used nowadays present a localisation challenge to rescuers and ground units, especially in such a stressful and low visibility environment. Thanks to Galileo and EGNOS, 5Lives demonstrated that with the adequate equipment, the fire brigades are rescued within minutes.

All pilots and fire brigadiers where greatly pleased with the easiness of the system and the added safety to their every-day missions.

Helicopter Firefighting Displacement Demo

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The first set of demonstration flights for 5-LIVES were successfully completed this month in Toén, in the Spanish region of Galicia. In a two days campaign, PildoLabs engineers worked closely with Babcock’s pilots and technicians to demonstrate the benefits of 5-LIVES outcomes and the great added value to firefighting operations.

The first day (2nd of May) was fully devoted to prepare the helicopter, perform ground tests and plan, together with Babcock’s pilots and the firefighting brigade, the following day flights. PildoLabs’ prototype systems where mounted on-board the helicopter and everything was tested to be ready before the big day.

The 3rd of May, at first light, we were already on the field finishing up last minute preparations and briefing the pilots about the first set of flight demonstrations. It consisted on flying the low-level routes and instrument approach procedures developed within Scenario 3. In an over two hours flight campaign, the pilots were able to successfully come back from the defined national parks to the base and land safely following instructions from PildoLabs systems, based on EGNOS.

Thanks to the EGNOS Safety-of-Life service, the helicopters flying to and from firefighting missions could increase the safety of their operations by flying specifically designed instrumental routes to their base of operations. This is especially relevant for firefighting operations, which find optimal firefighting conditions at twilight and dusk due to the downfall of the winds, lower temperatures and higher humidity, and are then found to return to base with low visibility conditions. All pilots were greatly pleased with the easiness of the system and the added safety of the defined routes.

5Lives Advisory Group first meeting

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Last June 16th, PildoLabs and UK Branch PildoLabs Wessex led the first meeting of the 5Lives Advisory Group (FLAG) in Barcelona, Spain.

The FLAG Group aims to harmonize the implementation of Rotorcraft EGNSS IRF Operations at European level by providing support to 5Lives Project and establishing coordination between Rotorcraft Operators, National Authorities and the Aviation Community; the main actors involved in these operations.

The Group was created by 5Lives consortium members, PildoLabs, PildoLabs Wessex, REGA, INAER Spain, INAER Portugal and INAER France, with the direct financial support from the European GNSS Agency (GSA).

This meeting was the launch of the FLAG Working Group, which will meet in a regular basis, with the aim of discussing and providing recommendations on the implementation of Rotorcraft EGNSS IFR Operations at a technical and regulatory level, and to identify any missing element or action that could become a blocking point in the implementation process.

The event was attended by 5Lives Project partners and key organizations in the European Aviation Community, such as experts from the GSA, CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) delegates and Helicopter Operator representatives, among others.

During the meeting, attendees had the chance to share their individual experiences with EGNSS IRF Operations, and the obstacles each of them is currently facing in the implementation of these operations on a national level. The meeting represented the group formation and the reception was very positive from the participants as the need for a coordinated approach to these issues was agreed by all. As a result of the meeting a working plan and a roadmap is being defined. Actions and progress will be reviewed at each subsequent FLAG meeting.

5Lives (Search, Challenge, Flight, Care and Rescue for Lives), aims at providing innovative solutions, based in European Global Navigation Satellite Systems (EGNSS), to overcome various rotorcraft operational weaknesses identified in five different scenarios, related to emergency and other critical missions (HEMS operations, Approaches in challenging environments, Firefighting helicopter displacement, UAV rotorcraft maritime search and Emergency troops monitoring & helicopter evacuation service).

5Lives Project takes off

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Last Tuesday 13th of October, 5-LIVES project was launched in Barcelona. This project is partially funded by the European GNSS Agency (GSA) in the frame of Horizon 2020 Work Programme, the funding programme set by the European Commission for research and innovation.

5-LIVES project aims to provide innovative solutions, based in European Global Navigation Satellite Systems (EGNOS and Galileo), to overcome various rotorcraft operational weaknesses identified in five different scenarios related to: Helicopter Emergency and Medical Services (HEMS), Search & Rescue (SAR) and Fire Fighting operations.

Through the use of EGNSS, the project targets enhancing the safety of the helicopter operations by developing new services and products into the following identified areas:

– Helicopter Visual RNAV with EGNSS
– Helicopter IFR procedures
– Advanced curved 3D flight trajectories for constraining environments
– EGNSS guidance for Unmanned Air Vehicles
– Accurate positioning for ground emergency management

5-LIVES project is led by Pildo Labs in consortium with a pool of European companies: Pildo Labs Wessex, REGA, INAER Spain, INAER Portugal and INAER France.