As offshore drilling operations reaching into deeper water, further from shore, the duration of helicopter flights also increases along with the risk that the weather might change during the flight to the rig. A new technology promises to increase the safety margin of longer flights and also help dispatchers plan around weather delays, but could it also lead to more flight cancelations?
Kongsberg Maritime’s new service will provide users of its Helideck Monitoring Systems (HMS) with live data on helideck conditions before the flight embarks for the platform. It can also monitor changing conditions on the rig providing helicopter dispatchers ashore the chance to abort flights that have already departed. The service, available on a yearly subscription basis, was developed to addresses new requirements of the Norwegian and UK Civil Aviation Authorities.
The Web HMS 100 service has been developed to assist helicopter operators to plan flights to offshore platforms and vessels prior to take-off from the heliport but, once the service is activated on an HMS 100 installation, other key stakeholders can view the data including Rescue Coordination Centres, lease holders and the ship management company. The live data from the HMS 100 installation is displayed in a user-friendly text and/or graphical formatand can be accessed from any web browser.
“Although the new Web HMS 100 system introduces new operational capabilities as it can provide data to the helicopter land-base so operators are fully aware of conditions at the flight destination before it even leaves, it is also linked to the forthcoming regulations as the availability of the data can eliminate the need for a separate Rig Report to be submitted, which is a requirement under the new, incoming regulations,” explains Vidar BjÃ¸rkedal, VP Sales & Customer Support Kongsberg.
The Kongsberg HMS 100 provides accurate data by integrating with a variety of other meteorological sensors including humidity, wind speed and direction, and barometric pressure but, at the heart of the system is a motion reference unit MRU that directly measures key movement characteristics such as alongships (pitch), athwartships (maximum roll), vertical movement (maximum heave), heave period and max average heave rate. The unit can be installed at the helideck, on the bridge or at any other suitable location on the vessel, the lever arm software makes it possible for the operator to set up the measuring point to be precisely at the centre of the helideck.
While the company has offered advanced helicopter monitoring software since 2004 and web based monitoring since 2010, the technology continues to improve. New to the system is the Kongsberg MRU 3, an upgraded reference unit designed for roll, pitch and heave compensation applications including real-time heave compensation of echo sounders during helicopter operations, surveys and other activities including the use of active heave compensation of offshore cranes. The MRU 3 provides heave measurements to meet IHO standards ensuring that echo sounder data is highly accurate pre and post processing, whilst offshore crane safety and efficiency can be also be improved. The MRU 3 achieves high reliability by using solid state sensors with no rotational or mechanical parts.
A second new model, the MRU E, is specially designed for use in marine applications that require an extended temperature range. It can operate at ambient temperatures from -25 to +70°C and can be installed on open decks, inside cabinets or on bulkheads. Typical applications include direct mounting under the helideck centre to measure 3-axes linear accelerations together with roll, pitch and heave. Because of the extended temperature range of the MRU E, no additional enclosure or cabinet is required and the system meets Helideck Certification Agency (HCA) allowing it to be used in Arctic and other extreem weather environments.
Both new MRUs accept input of external speed and heading information on separate serial lines or Ethernet for improved accuracy in heave, roll and pitch during turns and accelerations.
An expert in deepwater operations tells gCaptain, “It’s too early to tell the impact of these units on crew changes but if more flights are canceled due to dangerous conditions then I believe most rig workers will welcome the delays.”