The Eurocopter Group is a helicopter manufacturer and maintenance company with clients in 140 countries flying over 11,000 helicopters. With aircraft spanning the globe, Eurocopter needed an automated solution to manage parts inventory and simplify helicopter parts life cycle management.
The RFID solution delivers:
- Reduced labor costs and maintenance time
- Improved efficiency of maintenance and inventory processes
The increasing complexity of aircraft and the diversity of missions in remote geographical areas have a significant impact on the cost of maintenance. Reducing operating costs, enhancing security and improving aircraft availability, and competitiveness criteria are essential for operators. Improving the management of aircraft maintenance and in particular the knowledge of the configuration and monitoring of aircraft parts contribute to these objectives.
Eurocopter chose an RFID solution to optimize and simplify helicopter parts life cycle management, and sought assistance from STid, a corporation that manufactures RFID technology and develops innovative RFID solutions. The system aims to identify and authenticate mechanical and avionics parts of an aircraft and integrate specific data on each part for maintenance and support activities.
Eurocopter’s requirements for its RFID system were significant. The system would have to operate in an extremely harsh environment, and be compliant with aeronautical environmental standards withstanding heat shocks, large pressure fluctuations, and contact with liquids. STid created a new passive RFID tag, called IronTag to meet Eurocopter’s specific needs. STid selected Impinj’s Monza X extended feature chip to power the IronTag, thanks to STid’s background with Impinj, and Monza X’s documented high performance and user memory.
How It Works
An embedded wireless system including RFID readers provides secured reading and updating of up to 150 RFID tags which have been installed on helicopter parts, including engine, mechanical (moving parts), and avionics parts.
Three of STid’s Flyable RFID reader modules are embedded on aircraft, covering all the areas where IronTag on-metal tags are installed (front interior, front exterior, top floor, engine area, and tail). On maintenance crew request, the RFID readers collect data from the tags and download it to a ground based PC. Actual configuration can be checked against expected configuration for the mission. Post flight, the tags are updated with accumulated flight hours.
Additionally, a Psion Workabout Pro 3 RFID handheld device powered by Impinj’s Indy reader chip is used by maintenance crews to capture tag data and write additional information to the tags, such as the maintenance or inspection they have carried out.
The system enables Eurocopter to capture at any place and at any time the actual configuration of the aircraft and the status of each tagged part. Because the RFID system allows for faster data sharing and decreases data processing, part maintenance and inventory is more efficient, simple and sharable.
This innovation increases maintenance effectiveness and aircraft availability and reduces cost significantly.
The Eurocopter Group is a global helicopter manufacturer and support company. It was created in 1992 in the merger between the helicopter divisions of Aerospatiale-matra (France) and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Germany). The group is now a subsidiary owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), one of the three largest aerospace groups in the world. Through a series of successive integrations, Eurocopter has become Europe’s leading fully-integrated aeronautical group. In 2012, Eurocopter delivered a total of 475 helicopters to customers, increasing its sales by 15%, with an estimated revenue of €6.3 billion. As of 2012, more than 11,000 Eurocopter helicopters were being used by 2,800 customers in 140 countries.
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