Air traffic is expected to grow continuously in the next decades. Reducing the environmental footprint of aviation has therefore become a major challenge for industry stakeholders and including for rotorcraft operators. Working towards greener skies, the European Commission has created jointly with the aviation industry the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking. Its objective is to develop technologies that mitigate the impact of air transport on the environment (reduction of aircraft external noise, emissions and fuel consumption).
One of the initiatives launched by CleanSky JU in this perspective is the CARE project (Curved Applications for Rotorcraft Environmental enhancements). The project consists in developing new curved IFR (“Instrument Flight Rules”) procedures for rotorcraft using satellite-based augmentation systems (GNSS-SBAS).
For this two-year project CleanSky JU has selected a consortium led by Egis Avia and also formed by the French air navigation service provider (DGAC/DSNA), Pildo Consulting and CGX Aero. The consortium will provide support in the design and implementation of curved GNSS-SBAS IFR procedures for rotorcraft.
The first step of CARE consists in defining the criteria to design these procedures based on the specific characteristics of rotorcraft and also on the use of satellite-based positioning system (GNSS-SBAS).
Secondly, the project team will identify the benefits brought by GNSS-SBAS guidance and the implementation of such procedures.
Finally, the consortium will conduct a safety assessment of these operations and ensure their promotion towards the potential stakeholders.
 GNSS-SBAS guidance is a key enabler for implementing specific rotorcraft operations entitled Point-in-Space (PinS) procedures. These operations are required where conventional IFR approaches and departures cannot be implemented due to inappropriate local infrastructures – e.g. landing spots located in mountainous areas or at airports in the vicinity of runways. A PinS approach procedure consists in guiding the rotorcraft until a specific Point-in-Space beyond which the pilot can proceed along a visual segment to the final approach area for landing. In case the landing spot is not in sight (PinS approach procedure with “proceed visually” instruction) or minimum required visibility is not available (PinS approach procedure with “proceed VFR” instruction) from the PinS, the pilot shall initiate a missed approach procedure.
Low noise flight operations
These new curved trajectories are of major interest as they allow rotorcraft to avoid flying over noise sensitive urban areas, especially thanks to the use of high-precision GNSS-SBAS guidance for approaches and departures. This is particularly important for Final Approach and Take-Off areas (FATOs) located within urban areas.
Low noise procedures are a major green leap forward and they increasingly capture the interest of airports and operators as an effective solution for noise abatement in residential areas overflown by rotorcraft.
GNSS-SBAS guidance also enhances both the precision and the performance of rotorcraft navigation. In particular, curved procedures enable rotorcraft to operate under IFR in challenging environments such as mountainous areas and to fly safely steep approaches to airports or heliports that are difficult to access or located in densely populated areas. This is particularly important for medical air transport to city hospitals or for helicopter operations in the vicinity of airports without interfering with the surrounding fixed-wing aircraft traffic.
Through this project Egis is once again demonstrating its active involvement towards a more sustainable air transport.