Honeywell Skyforce has gone live with the latest version of its Observer digital mapping and task management system for helicopters.
Observer Version 4 has a significant upgrade in functionality and security. The software has been rewritten to a higher Level D standard which enables it to be part of a certified package of avionics including the latest glass cockpits being fitted to new helicopters.
Skyforce’s product team worked closely with the launch customer, London's Metropolitan Police on the upgrade. 'The Met' is one of Skyforce's oldest customers with three EC145 helicopters equipped with Observer. The helicopters are flown intensively day and night on missions all over the capital and surrounding areas.
For the Met Police, it was vital to get the Version 4 upgrade customized to suit their mission requirements.
"We have very specific mapping requirements for London so what Honeywell has done is to work with us to make sure the mapping layers perform the way that we wanted," says Police Inspector Richard Brandon, who is in charge of The Met's Air Police Unit. "We've also done a lot of work to get the user interface correct."
A key change is address search functionality. There are an estimated 16 million addresses in London with expansive city blocks of flats and apartments. Observer now has an 'intelligent' search system which suggests likely addresses even if the operator isn't sure of the exact name.
To speed up searches, Observer looks locally within 5 miles of the helicopter's location. This is an adjustable function - in a less populated city such as Wales, the search area would be greater.
Another new function developed especially for The Met is the ability to plot a location quickly and simply - just like dropping a pin onto a map. This feature enables crews to highlight a location for further investigation - such as location with potential criminal activity – and the system also allows 'notes' to be added.
"When you are flying in a particular area at say, 9:36 in the morning," explained Richard, "the mapping system is intelligent enough to know there's a photographic task that must be performed, or there's a particular crime problem between 7 and midday. Therefore you could do a quick patrol and achieve a lot of benefit."
For more details on Honeywell’s Skyforce products, click here.