DRDC Tech­nol­ogy Sup­ports Safer and Smoother Land­ings at Sea for RCN

RCN News - - Content -

Con­duct­ing he­li­copter op­er­a­tions from RCN ships is a com­plex and danger­ous pro­ce­dure re­quir­ing the high­est de­gree of safety. De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Canada (DRDC) has de­vel­oped a spe­cial­ized sys­tem which has the po­ten­tial to in­crease the safety of com­plex at-sea op­er­a­tions and en­sure safer and smoother he­li­copter land­ings on RCN ships.

“Wind speed, ship mo­tion, and sea states all af­fect he­li­copter land­ings at sea,” says T. J. Caron, Ship Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Lead En­gi­neer, Project Man­age­ment Of­fice (PMO), Mar­itime He­li­copter Project (MHP) Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence (DND). “The unique ca­pa­bil­ity of the DRDC Flight Deck Mo­tion Sys­tem (FDMS) to mea­sure and pre­dict ship and wave mo­tions and present a com­plete pic­ture to the op­er­a­tor is a valu­able tool in en­sur­ing safer op­er­a­tion of mar­itime he­li­copters and RCN ships and re­duc­ing the risk to CAF mem­bers dur­ing take­off and land­ing.”

The FDMS in­creases the safety of flight and ship crews by cre­at­ing mo­tion es­ti­mates for the cur­rent sea state. The RCN uses the es­ti­mates and wind mea­sure­ments to de­ter­mine ship course and speed for he­li­copter op­er­a­tions. When a he­li­copter takes off or lands on deck, the sen­sor mounted un­der the flight deck re­lays in­for­ma­tion to the real­time mod­ule of the FDMS, mea­sures and dis­plays the cur­rent ship mo­tions, and in­di­cates whether the ship and he­li­copter are within safety lim­its for the take­off or land­ing op­er­a­tion.

“FDMS is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of our abil­ity to con­trib­ute to the tech­no­log­i­cal and op­er­a­tional ef­fec­tive­ness of the RCN”, says DRDC Direc­tor Gen­eral Science and Tech­nol­ogy Air and Navy, Dale Red­ing. “Science and tech­nol­ogy (S&T) sup­port to CAF op­er­a­tions is a pri­or­ity for DRDC.”

The FDMS was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped to as­sist with CH-148 Cy­clone Ship He­li­copter Op­er­a­tion Lim­its (SHOL) tri­als. Most re­cently, the FDMS played a role in the re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Canada’s CH-124 Sea King he­li­copters for op­er­a­tions on the twelve newly-re­fit­ted Hal­i­fax-class pa­trol frigates. Part of the Frigate Life Ex­ten­sion (FELEX) pro­gram, the re­fit re­sulted in changes to the frigate su­per­struc­ture, the part of the ship that is above the main deck. The changes had the po­ten­tial to im­pact the wind flow over the flight deck, al­ter the ships’ pre­vi­ously-known air wake, and in­crease the risks of fly­ing in close prox­im­ity to the ship.

To en­sure the su­per­struc­ture mod­i­fi­ca­tions would not im­pact he­li­copter op­er­a­tions, the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil (NRC) tested the im­pact of the changes on wind flow un­der con­trolled con­di­tions at their wind tun­nel testing fa­cil­i­ties. In ad­di­tion, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) tasked the Aerospace En­gi­neer­ing Test Estab­lish­ment (AETE) with re­defin­ing Sea King ship-he­li­copter op­er­at­ing lim­its. Dur­ing Sea King flight tests, AETE part­nered with DRDC and the NRC to con­duct a sea trial, dur­ing un­con­trolled con­di­tions, us­ing the FDMS on HMCS Fredericton.

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