DRDC Technology Supports Safer and Smoother Landings at Sea for RCN
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.