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Nov 15, 2005

GPS & Digital Maps Combined To Increase Helicopter Safety

Using global positioning system technology along with digital maps, Honeywell has developed a new, enhanced ground proximity warning system, a system it says greatly increases helicopter safety. The system, as described in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is designed to help prevent one of the leading causes of helicopter crashes: pilots flying into hills, trees and other obstacles. Because they fly relatively close to the ground in urban areas, hills, buildings and communication towers pose quite a risk to helicopters, especially at night or in bad weather.

Honeywell's system contains digital maps on a single memory chip, but which a special difference. The maps contain the location of approximately 100,000 known towers and other obstacles, as well as 5,000 offshore oil rigs. Because the system uses the digital maps, it can warn the pilot of approaching hazards before they can be seen. The system displays approaching obstacles in red on a screen. If the pilot continues towards the hazard, a warning light flashes and finally a voice comes on urging the pilot to change course. The system has already gained widespread acceptance within the oil services industry and several manufacturers are making it standard equipment on their new models.