"All-environment" visibility solution for helicopters successfully trialled

Sea King Mk IV-X used by QinetiQ during HawkOwl trial

October 8, 2007 Helicopter pilots are often faced with demanding environmental conditions that make navigation difficult and lead to grounding of the aircraft as the only safe option – fog, cloud, rain and snow along with flying over featureless terrain or “brownout” conditions caused by dust all present problems for pilots, particularly when landing. International defence company QinetiQ has developed and successfully flight trialled a solution that integrates a range of imaging technologies into a single system with the aim of expanding the operational envelope of the aircraft under these circumstances.

The Day Night All Environment (DNAE) system combines color panoramic and display night vision goggles (NVGs) together with a head-tracking system, onboard mission planning and route generation; precision navigation; dynamic flight path guidance; and conformal, task dependent, symbology. Using a “head-down display” inputs from thermal imaging and low light TV sensors are fused in real-time to deliver optimum imaging.

Used in conjunction with a suite of navigational and tactical guidance aids, the system provides the pilot with a ‘safe corridor’, which appears as a wire frame projected into the NVGs. Other symbology including earth-referenced markers of obstacles and other points of interest on the ground can also be viewed. Landing symbology is also used to provide more accurate helicopter positioning, hover and control of descent rate and drift for precision landings in poor visibility conditions such as brown out.

Designed to enable “add on” upgrades to current platforms, the technology was recently trialled aboard a Sea King Mk IV-X helicopter.

“This is a significant step forward for military and civilian helicopter pilots and should make operating in adverse conditions much safer,” stated Tony Wall, MD of QinetiQ’s Air business. “By combining various types of existing sensor technologies with other workload reducing solutions into a single system, pilots, rather than being overwhelmed with excessive information, can easily select the optimum level of detail needed to safely operate the aircraft.”

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